LaShya Washington, an 11-year-old Mendota Elementary School student, sat with a laptop in a classroom in the School of Human Ecology building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on Tuesday afternoon, typing instructions to a robot.
“You can make it turn, move, say things,” said Washington, setting the Finch robot on the ground near her chair. She hit the space bar on her laptop, and the robot — a shoe-sized gizmo on wheels that looks like a lilywhite blobfish — “spoke” using text-to-voice technology. “I love STEM and Maydm,” it said, in a tinny voice.
Maydm is a nonprofit dedicated to exposing youth, particularly girls and children of color, to science, technology, engineering and mathematics — also known as the STEM fields. It was the organizing force behind RoboSmarts, a new summer course in artificial intelligence and robotics that was responsible for honing Washington’s skillset with the Finch.