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OLA’s All-Girls Robotics Team Makes Many Firsts

Alpha Omega, the Our Lady Academy (OLA) Robotics Team, recently competed in their first competition at The Bayou Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Kenner, LA, and brought home the “Rookie Inspiration Award.” We spoke with the team’s mentor, OLA Science Teacher, Julie Cranford, about their start and success.

“Our team started in the fall of 2017. A transfer student, Savannah Templeton, came from Gulfport High School, where she was an active member of that (FIRST Robotics) team. Since we did not have a team, she was instrumental in starting the program at OLA.” Though Templeton did not continue with the team and remained on Gulfport High School’s team, herself and other FIRST robotics teams in the area helped in the OLA startup.

OLA’s robotics winning team include, Emily Busby, now a graduate who will study electrical engineering in college, Kennedy Hertz, Lillie Lawhead, Alma Hearin, Allison Lyons and Sofia Schuyler. Led by Julie Cranford, these six members comprise Mississippi’s only all-girls robotics team in the entire state.

It was Julie Cranford’s interest in getting young girls involved in STEM that inspired her to volunteer for the role. “The team needed a teacher mentor, and I decided to help them out until they could find a robotics mentor. I have not been involved with this type of program before, but knew it was a great opportunity for the girls.”

Cranford attributes their growth to the help of many key contributors, “We had so many sponsors who helped fund our new program. And the invaluable aid of several mentors.”

When asked about the importance of mentorship, Cranford shared, “We have a very small group of dynamic women who put in many hours working on this robot. None of them had any experience in using tools, or programming. We could not have done this without the mentors, who taught them so much. They learned wiring, programming, metal and woodworking.”

This is the just start for OLA’s robotics team. Confident in their abilities, Julie Cranford know they will continue to succeed, “I think their willingness to work together, try anything new, and move out of their comfort zone is their key to success.”