No Time to Rest: The FeMaidens’ Path to Recovery

How the Coronavirus pandemic affected the FeMaidens, and how they are working to recover from it.


Photo used by permission of the FeMaidens

The FeMaidens’ Engineering Department discusses their ideas for a mechanism for their 2021 robot ‘Ashoka’ during a remote Zoom meeting.

As the 2020-2021 robotics season comes to a close, the FeMaidens [Iron Maidens] finished off strong by winning two awards: the prestigious Chairman’s Award, which granted them a chance to go to Championships, and an Honorable Mention for the Altice Innovator Awards, which provided a $1,000 grant for the upcoming 2021-2022 season. However, now that this year is over, there is not much time to celebrate as the team prepares for the next season – a completely different playing field from the previous year.

There are quite a few challenges that present themselves due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the first being that due to COVID-19, not only was last year’s competition canceled, but the competition during the year before that was canceled as well. As a result, only the members who have been on the team since their ninth grade year have even been to an in-person Robotics competition, and as of next year, only three members will fit this description. Additionally, the declaration of quarantine last year will mean that last year’s new members have never even experienced a full season of in-person building of a robot. And to finally top it off, this year, the FeMaidens were unable to accept new members, meaning that the total number of members on the team will reach an all-time low of twenty-one students when this year’s seniors graduate, which is less than half of the team’s usual fifty members.

Electronics member Suji Chen ’22 and Electronics Head Kristina Man ’21 work on wiring the FeMaiden’s 2020 robot, while Programming members Jillian Chong ’22 and Bianca Hiew ’21 watch as they practice testing their code. Engineering Head Montaha Rahman ’21 supervises to make sure that nothing goes wrong with the physical robot during testing. Note that this photo was taken before the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo used by permission of the FeMaidens)

With the added challenge of adjusting to an in-person school year starting in September 2021, as well as training new members, in addition to the inevitable stress of dealing with college applications, next year’s FeMaidens leadership has a lot of weight on their shoulders. “From having to relearn skills we’ve inevitably lost during the pandemic to taking on and training double the amount of rookies to just transitioning from remote to in-person, there’s a lot to do,” says Haydn Long ’22, Co-Head of the Programming department. Next year, Long will be one of the only remaining members who have been to a competition before, as well as the ‘pseudocaptain’ of the team. 

‘Pseudocaptain’ is a new position that the FeMaidens have come up with that will replace the regular captain position and is only one of the many changes they will be making to smoothly transition to a post-pandemic season starting in September 2021. Normally, the Captain is someone that pulls away from their position in their respective department to overlook the team and take care of administrative work. However, due to the sheer lack of members the team will be facing in the coming year, this would be a huge issue as one department will lose a valuable source of knowledge and experience.

Therefore, the pseudocaptain will only take part in structural duties and certain administrative tasks, while the majority of the captain’s responsibilities will fall upon the department heads, allowing the pseudocaptain to still help out with their department. Although the Coronavirus pandemic largely affected the normal flow of the team, the FeMaidens were still able to take it as an opportunity to learn and grow. For example, while needing to work at home during the pandemic, some of the FeMaidens had discovered some valuable information that could also help in their transition. “From this season, we found that CADing [Computer Automated Drawing] online is actually more efficient than CADing in school, so for next year some people will be allowed to go home and CAD in a Zoom meeting,” says Yizhen Wang ’22, a member of the Engineering department and future Co-Head of Engineering.

Another way the FeMaidens are looking to bounce back is through teaching prospective members before the academic year even starts in September 2021. “One change that I hope to put into place as part of the new leadership is hopefully opening up the summer for teaching prospectives before the school year officially starts.  By teaching new recruits the fundamentals of Java, hopefully, we can get a head start on teaching rookies as they would be more experienced than most,” said Jillian Chong ’22, a current member of Programming and future Co-Head of Programming. With these procedures in place, as well as many more the FeMaidens have planned, they are hoping for a smooth transition into the next year when they can all see each other in person once again.

The Coronavirus pandemic has provided a myriad of challenges for the FeMaidens. As a current member of the Marketing department and a future Head of Marketing Loretta Eng ’22 said, “I’m worried that I’m going to leave my leadership position feeling like I could have done more. However, I’m trying to not overthink. All I can do is to try my best, so I’m taking it day by day.” For these brave FeMaidens, Rachel Lu ’21 and current Co-Head of Programming said, “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! If you are ever unsure or feel lost, remember to communicate with the rest of leadership and other departments. Everyone is here for you!”

There is no doubt in my mind that the FeMaidens will be able to utilize their strengths to push forward during the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year, and I, as the graduating Captain, have nothing but pride and great expectations for the team going forward!

Electronics members of the FeMaidens work on their ideas for the electronics board for their 2021 robot ‘Ashoka,’ through sketching and discussion over Google Meets. (Photo used by permission of the FeMaidens)

With the added challenge of adjusting to an in-person school year starting in September 2021, as well as training new members, in addition to the inevitable stress of dealing with college applications, next year’s FeMaidens leadership has a lot of weight on their shoulders.

Members of the Programming Department of the FeMaidens pose for a group photo, pre-COVID pandemic. (Photo used by permission of the FeMaidens)