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Plum teen undertakes robotics project for Gold Award

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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Katie Shreve didn't take seriously her friend's suggestion to check out Carnegie Mellon University's Girls of Steel Robotics Team.

“I brushed her off,” said Shreve, 16, a senior at Plum High School.

Shreve said her mother urged her to attend a robotics-team open house a couple of years ago.

Shreve was surprised at what she found with the team that started in 2011 and has a dual mission of building robots for competition and supporting women and children's involvement in science, math engineering and technology, or STEM, disciplines, according to the team's website.

“It is wonderful and crazy,” Shreve said.

“It is cool to build something and see the end product. I love that. And it's nice to work without the pressure of sexism around.”

Shreve plans to study mechanical engineering and is a member of Girl Scout Troop 5074.

Shreve decided to combine both loves and work on a robotics project to help earn her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

Shreve is conducting a robotics camp for girls in the fourth through eighth grades at the Holiday Park Church of Christ on Abers Creek Road.

The 10 girls, directed by Shreve and a few adults, will use Lego blocks to build a small, autonomous robot that they will program, Shreve said.

Shreve intends for the robotics lesson to instruct the girls in many areas.

“I want them to have fun and respect each other,” Shreve said.

“I hope they will learn more about STEM and be interested in it.”

Shreve said she also hopes to dispel the notion some girls have that science and math-related fields are for men.

“Being a girl doesn't mean you can't do things in STEM,” Shreve said.

George Kantor, senior system scientist at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said Shreve is tapping into the girls' interest at the appropriate ages.

Kantor said women are underrepresented in fields such as electrical and mechanical engineering and computer science.

“The attitude toward technology (for females) is set by eighth or ninth grade,” Kantor said.

“We need more engineers, and the fact that many women who would be qualified are not going into (engineering) means we are losing resources.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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