Monday, February 26, 2018

Meet the Brainiac Maniacs, a robotics team full of G.I.R.L.'s

The Brainiac Maniacs Girl Scout robotics team is a testament to what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader). The team is having a very successful season competing in the FIRST Lego League (FLL), and have defied long odds as they overcame challenges to become the top FLL team in southeast Texas.

The team is sponsored by Anadarko Petroleum and the Motorola Solutions Foundation, along with generous additional support from Schneider Electric; these companies enable the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto County (GSSJC) to deliver a robust robotics program to over 100 girls. The Brainiac Maniacs are diverse, with 10 girls from Chinese, Indian, African-American and Caucasian backgrounds, and range from 8-10 years old in a league where the maximum age of 14. Even more inspiring is that most of the girls had not participated in FLL before and many of the teams they were competing against were older and more experienced. Many had not worked with robotics before and had to learn while doing. Additionally, the team was confronted with many challenges throughout their season. Despite this, their knowledge, determination and just plain joy carried them through! They became go-getters through their passion and perseverance to overcome adversity.

Each year, FLL has a theme which guides team projects. For the 2017-2018 season, it was Hydro Dynamics, which focuses on ways to improve the human water cycle. To identify a solution to the real-world problem of water usage, the Brainiac Maniacs showed their innovation by creating Water Wizard™, an app combined with lawn watering solutions that helps reduce lawn over-watering since most people over-water by 30%-300%. Based on their 500+ survey responses, Water Wizard could save more than 300,000 gallons/week/home, which is enough to provide water to 140 homes!

During the December 2017 FLL local qualifier in Katy, the judging went smoothly, but the first robot game match was very challenging. Due to a malfunction, nothing worked and the team scored a 0. The teams’ hearts ached but instead of folding, they rebounded, fixed the problem, and finished with a perfect robot run! This put them in first place for robot performance and they also received first place for their Water Wizard project, which qualified them for the South Texas Regional Championship in January 2018.

At the Championship, they were a respectable 8th place out of 60 teams in robot performance and thought they did well during the judging sessions, where the judges were very impressed by their in-depth knowledge, support for one another, and just plain grit! At the award ceremony, the suspense built and the sound of cheering echoed as the Brainiac Maniacs received the first place Champion's Award! Out of 33,000 FLL teams globally, the Brainiac Maniacs are one of only 108 from 45 countries going to the World Championship in Houston!

There are a few lessons the team learned so far this season:
  1. Things happens, don't let it keep you down!
  2. Hard work pays off, if not by winning, then by learning and doing!
  3. Focus on doing well in all areas, not just excellent in one!
  4. Work together as team and support one another
  5. Winning is sweet, but it’s not everything! Having FUN is!
Visit the World Championship at the George R. Brown Convention Center April 19-21 to see robotics action and cheer on the Brainiac Maniacs. We hope it inspires you and shows that girls can do anything they put their minds to!

Read more about GSSJC’s robotics season overall (which included 20 participating teams) here.