Seven girls, ages 11-14, from the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley took part in an all-day robotics competition on Sunday, Nov. 21, at La Canada High School. They walked away with the Research Quality Award, enhanced confidence, and memories of an amazing experience.
The event was part of FIRST LEGO League (http://www.firstlegoleague.org ), a robotics program designed to get children, ages 9 to 14, excited about science and technology and to teach them valuable employment and life skills. Janine Fairall, education director at the Newhall clubhouse registered a few months ago to serve as a coach for this program.
Don't miss a thing. Get breaking news alerts delivered right to your inbox 
Prior to the event, the girls built and programmed their robot to take part in the competition with 24 teams. The girls participated in four rounds of competition, as well as interviews with two different sets of judges, who evaluated them based on robot design and teamwork
“You could really tell how much this program meant to the girls,” Fairall said. “They all were nervous as we set out and anxious before their tasks. They handled themselves with maturity and grace. It was great to see and know that the Boys and Girls Club had given them this opportunity. It reinforced to me how the Club offers such wonderful opportunities for kids to be successful and showcase their talents.”
Separately, teams were tasked with preparing a research project in the biomedical engineering field. They were to come up with a way to protect, advance or heal an ailment. The Santa Clarita girls chose eating disorders and spoke about statistics in America and the effects it has on girls their age.
“The girls created a bracelet device (in theory) that affected girls would wear to detect electrolyte levels in sweat. If a girl were to purge, the device would notify parents and caregivers, so that she could get the treatment she needed,” Fairall explained. “The judges were so impressed that they called them back for a second round of judging. They ended up receiving a research award for their project! Not bad for their first time.”
The girls who competed were Kelly Dell, 14; Bekah Dickey, 12; Samantha Flores, 11; Cynthia Samano, 11; Daria Simpson 14; and Melonie Tucker, 11. Kani Ebner, 16, served as the team’s assistant coach.
“The competition was exciting, but nerve-wracking,” Samano said. “My favorite part was presenting the research project because we got to act it out and it was so much fun. We also got an award, so (that was) additional excitement.”
The interest and excitement in robotics stems from a summer program funded by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley in 2009, followed by a friendly competition in February of this year which teamed up girls from the local Boys and Girls Club and Zontians. The teams built robots using the Lego Mindstorms kit and programmed them to complete a simple obstacle course.
Zontians who helped prepare the girls and attended the November competition were Sue Peterson, JoAnn Rodriguez, and Darleen Lyons. Lyons’ husband Bill was also a supporter as well as Carl and Terry Kanowsky. Carl is a member of both the governing and foundation boards for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley.
Dell, who participated in the February event and November competition, was grateful for the adult support. “I think the Zontians and Bill are amazing people…They are full of joy and enthusiasm and are just wonderful to work with.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley was formed in 1968 by a group of community leaders who recognized the need for high-quality programs and facilities at affordable costs for area young people. The Club now serves more than 2,800 youth, ages 7-17, at facilities in Newhall, Canyon Country and Val Verde. Programs engage members in education and career exploration, the arts, sports, recreation and fitness, character and leadership development, and healthy life choices. For more information visit http://scvbgc.org/ .
Zonta International , founded in 1919, is a worldwide service organization of executives in business who work together to advance the status of women, with nearly 33,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs, in 67 countries and geographic areas. The Zonta Club of SCV, founded in 1974, meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Hilton Garden Inn for a dinner program and business meeting. For more information, visit http://www.scvzonta.org/ 
# # #
Photo captions also found as “file info.”
Kelly Dell, Samantha Flores, Cynthia Samano, Melonie Tucker, Bekah Dickey, Daria Simpson, and Kani Ebner hold a sign with their name and team number, “Zonta Robotics team 8071,” as they wait for their first round of the robotics competition.
(from left) Kelly Dell (hooded sweatshirt), Melonie Tucker, Bill Lyons, Daria Simpson, Samantha Flores, Janine Fairall, and Bekah Dickey discuss and work on some last-minute adjustments to their robotics program