Harris' Heroes: Local engineer helps young girls build robots

(WJLA) - These Silver Spring students are working on building a robot for the Vex IQ challenge in March.

"We're going to competition and each kid gets to drive our robot," says 10-year-old Lindsey Lathan.

Their coach is Cori Lathan, an engineer who builds robots for a living.

"We're particularly interested in robotics and smart devices and how those can be used for biomedical applications like surgical simulators or measuring brain vitals," she explains.

The students say she sparked their interest by showing them robots that she has built, and by teaching them how to build their own.

"I think it's really cool because lots of kids like to play with robots and remote controls so it's really cool to see how they're made," says 10-year-old Nora Farahat.

They’re also getting help from Archbishop Carroll High School’s robotics team, which happens to be coached by Lathan’s mother.

"We're helping them make their own engineers' notebook, helping them build and helping them program," says Anna Marie Otor, a ninth-grader at Archbishop Carroll High School.

Lathan says it’s important to show youth – particularly girls – just how much fun math and science can be.

"It's really exciting and I'm proud of myself when I get to make the robot do something," says 10-year-old Gabrielle Johnson.

"There's still a lot of societal pressure to not be in the sciences," says Cori Lathan.

And by engaging the girls piece-by-piece, she's hoping to change that:

"That doesn't mean I want to turn them all into engineers, it means I want them to really see science, technology, engineering and mathematics as an empowering, exciting field that they'll keep their fingers in."

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