SODA student to travel to Austria to speak about girls in science

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Petite, blonde and brainy, Chloe Grubb, a sophomore at the School of Dreams Academy, was invited to be a guest speaker at the European Conference on Educational Robotics in Vienna, Austria, April 20-27.

She was invited, with travel and lodging expenses paid, by the ECER organizer, professor Gottfried Koppensteiner, to talk about girls in science, technology, engineering and math.

"It's a pretty big deal," said Creighton Edington, SODA math and robotics teacher. "Koppensteiner has seen Chloe the last two years at GCERs (Global Conference on Educational Robotics) and was really impressed with how she is able to help the other teams, her sportsmanship, how she coaches, how she is on a team."

She stepped up to mentor a Botball team she met at a workshop in Oklahoma. She got to know the students over a six month period, emailing back and forth with them to help them understand how the competition strategies work and how to write the computer codes so they could compete successfully.

"The Botball organizers realized the (team) wouldn't have had success without Chloe's helping them," said Edington. "She just goes out of her way, volunteering and helping, and they see that she spends a lot of time and effort dealing with the robotics, being part of it, competing."

Last summer, the judges at GCER honored her with the Judge's Choice Award for Outstanding Initiative Achievement.

Grubb coached the SODA middle school BEST robotics team, which is normally coached by an adult or teacher.

"She was coaching against teachers and coaches with engineering degrees," Edington said.

The 16-year-old has been deeply committed to building highly functioning robots, mentoring teams at robotics events in Oklahoma and New Mexico State University, helping with competition set up and trouble-shooting problems.

At RoboRAVE International, she manned the Botball booth for the Botball organizers.

Part of what motivates her is gratitude for the robotics program.

"I like to get more teams involved, because without this, I wouldn't have the opportunities I have," Grubb said. "I'd like for everyone else to have those opportunities."

The young protégé hopes to inspire other girls to muster the courage to enter the male dominated field of engineering and robotics.

"I think that a lot of women don't go into it because they see how many guys are in there, or their friends don't want to do it," Grubb said. "I think women can do really well in it, especially through this program we have at this school, because almost all the leaders we've had for robotics are women, and they do a great job."

The ECER conference is being held for computer science professors, and high school students from all over Europe who are new to the field.

Grubb is excited to assist Ross Mead, a Ph.D student from the University of Southern California, with robot engineering workshops during the first few days of the conference.

Mead is involved in developing robots to assist people in their homes and daily lives, and he is also a robo-tech in the "Extreme Robot Combat League" on the Sci-Fi Channel, Grubb said.

The conference will culminate with the Practical Robotics Institute of Austria, the PRIA open competition, and she will mentor one of the teams.

"Teams can come in that haven't done it before, and they'll learn how to build robots on the first two days," she said. "On the third day, they'll have the competition."

Last year, Grubb competed in the Unmanned Autonomous Aerial Vehicle contest as a team by herself, and won fourth place. The first-place winner was a college team of four or more, Edington said.

She flew a Parrot AR drone, programming two computers to interface, so that the drone sent signals to a control unit on the ground, controlling both the drone and another robot to coordinate together.

"She had to put together C, Java and Python programming to get all three codes to work together simultaneously … translate one language into another language to get the robots to work together," he said.

For the past two years, she has also been on the SODA team in the FIRST Robotics competition, which is the largest robotics competition in the world with more than 50,000 students, and 2,000 teams.

Dr. Dave Miller, one of the founding members of Botball, and a professor at Oklahoma University, recently asked her what colleges she was considering and suggested she consider OU.

"I was doing a drone contest there, and they just pretty much said they'd love to have me there," Grubb said.

NMSU Dean of the College of Engineering Dr. Ricardo Jacques has made similar overtures as well, but Grubb's goal is to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the No. 1 school for engineering and science.

"I've been dreaming about going there since I was 7," she said. "Ever since I was little, I've had a thing for math and science. My parents (Kim and Don Grubb) started pushing me to go into engineering, which seemed pretty possible at the time. Now, it's even more possible."

When Grubb was in fifth grade, she was in the talented and gifted program at her school in Florida, with test scores at a 10th and 11th grade level.

The trend continues as she is currently enrolled in college-level math at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, and has been taking college-level courses since her freshman year of high school.

She will graduate high school with her diploma and an associate degree.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.