Magazine article Black Enterprise

Spelman College SpelBots Take Robotics by Storm: All-Female, African American, Undergraduate Team Explores Robotics and Computer Science

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Spelman College SpelBots Take Robotics by Storm: All-Female, African American, Undergraduate Team Explores Robotics and Computer Science

Article excerpt

WHEN IT COMES TO AMERICA'S LEADING SCIENCE, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology immediately come to mind. But one historically black liberal arts college for women is ripe to join that list, establishing an innovative ecosystem for the next generation of STEM leaders.

The first all-female, all African American undergraduate competition team and club, the Spelman College SpelBots, has proved time and time again that African American women are proficient in computer science and can rub shoulders with the top robotics teams globally.

Ten years after the team's founding, the latest group of young women, an octet, continues to build on the group's trailblazing legacy. The SpelBots have qualified to participate in the RoboCup 2014 Standard Platform League drop-in player competition in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in July. Led by new faculty advisers Yolanda Rankin, Ph.D., instructor of computer and information sciences, and Jakita Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer and information sciences, these team members will participate in the 16-year-old competition for the first time.

Founded in 2004 by Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D., the SpelBots first made history the following year after competing in the four-legged robot soccer competition in the RoboCup Japan Open held in Osaka. Although the SpelBots didn't win, the team competed against other highly skilled students who had participated in years past, making the SpelBots' entry all the more thrilling. In the 2009 RoboCup Japan Open, the SpelBots tied with a team from a top Japanese technology university in the championship match of the two-legged SPL Nao humanoid division. The next year, then co-captains Jazmine Miller and Jonecia Keels won a $10,000 prize at the AT&T Mobile Challenge for their iPhone app, HBCU Buddy. …

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