15 Jan 2018 FIRST is more than robots: Sarah’s story
When Sarah Soriano started her freshman year at Mill Valley High School she was extremely quiet and a bit reticent to speak her mind.
That was before she met Bullwinkle, FRC Team 1810’s moose-headed robot, which drew her into the team’s booth at freshman orientation and led her down a path she never expected.
Although she thanks FIRST Robotics for introducing her to the STEM career path she’s now pursuing, she says the most important things she gained from her four years on the team are actually soft skills: top-notch organizational techniques, the ability to speak with confidence and authority, leadership and advocacy experiences and learning how to stay flexible.
Now studying Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, Sarah serves as the Mill Valley/DeSoto drive teach coach and electrical mentor, giving back to the team that has made such a difference in her life.
A family of innovators
Sarah may have landed on the robotics team somewhat by happenstance, but she comes from a long line of innovators. Her grandfather was an inventor; her aunt, a mechanical engineer; and her father and his team won top honors at Kansas City’s Make 48, a 48-hour invent-a-thon weekend.
Sarah hopes to take the combination of skills she developed through robotics and Project Lead The Way coursework into a career in industrial design, where she can solve problems that affect people’s daily lives.
“In the future I am interested in designing ergonomic kitchenware for people with motor skill challenges,” she says.
Sarah has worked hard to expose girls in her world to the opportunities in the STEM fields. A long-time Girl Scout, she brought the FRC’s robot to day camps for girls in fifth and sixth grades, letting them drive and see firsthand how much fun robotics can be. Some of the girls have gone on to join the Mill Valley team, where the ratio of female participants continues to rise.
“I didn’t really expect (robotics) to affect me as much as it did,” Sarah says. “I livestream matches, I look up stats and I like to talk with the students about how all of the teams are doing. I follow it like other people follow college sports.”
And she hopes others will follow suit:
“It’s been a great experience. It requires flexibility and teaches you how to speak up, explain what you’re doing and sell your ideas.”