Female team places 4th in robotics competition


Above: Kathy Tran and Heather Berry pose for a photo after competing in the VEX U competition in League City, Texas. 

A Texas A&M University team of 12 female engineering students recently placed fourth out of 11 other university teams at a VEX U Robotics competition in League City, Texas. The team was sponsored and mentored by Women in Engineering, a Dwight Look College of Engineering program conceived last year to strengthen and incorporate inclusion practices throughout the college.

The competition proved to be a memorable experience for the team members, bolstering their abilities to work as a team and strengthening their technical skills.

“When I formed the team in October, many of the students were freshmen that wanted to be involved,” said Shawna Fletcher, director of Women in Engineering, “Over the past few months, they have each grown in their technical abilities and became very determined to show up as tough competitors.”

Fletcher said the students now know more about project management and working with a team to overcome challenges. 


“I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish in a few short months,” she said.

Team captain Kathy Tran, a nuclear engineering student, had competed in VEX U competitions in high school. She brought experience to the table that was lacking in some of the other members. The team met a multiple times per week and put in a lot of hard work to complete their robot in time.

“It was a long semester, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything,” Tran said. “These women got so passionate about VEX so quickly that it made this process a lot easier.”

Team member Heather Berry, a computer science student, said she really enjoyed the camaraderie. 


“It’s nice to be surrounded by motivating students who are hungry for success,” she said. “There were a lot of obstacles that we had to cross, but it was invigorating once we got through it.”

Mechanical team lead, Maura Cadigan, an aerospace engineering student, said she really appreciated the help from Women in Engineering.

“They started, funded and encouraged the team,” she said. “I remember the first meeting we went to with Women in Engineering. Everyone there encouraged us to be ambitious and let us know that they would support us every step of the way.”

Fletcher said the program is dedicated to providing various opportunities for women to participate.


“Many times, women are not seen as technically competent, though they usually have high GPA’s,” Fletcher said. “A student approached them during the competition and said, ‘It looks better than I thought.’ Those kinds of comments happen daily for women, even though they keep proving they are more than competent and can excel in engineering. With a fourth-place finish, this team proved they are more than capable.”

The Engineering Innovation Center offered its assistance for design reviews and housed the projects.

“It is this partnership that has helped the VEX U team be successful,” Fletcher said.

Program specialist Danisha Stern also assisted the team throughout the process, helping it order parts and stay on track.

To learn more about Women in Engineering project teams, email weoutreach@tamu.edu.