The Iron Maidens — How Have They Been Doing Lately?

The FeMaidens have been CADing, brainstorming, and experimenting in their homes for the past two years. How have they been handling the abrupt transition from virtual to in-person school?

The FeMaidens are taking the new in-person Bronx Science year by storm. Here, the team is pictured, pre-pandemic.

FRC 2265 Team

The FeMaidens are taking the new in-person Bronx Science year by storm. Here, the team is pictured, pre-pandemic.

It all began in 2006, when several female members of the Sciborgs (co-ed Robotics team in Bronx Science) noticed the underrepresentation of females in the STEM field, nationwide. In many robotics programs across the country, girls were handed tasks that aligned with public relations (sponsors, grants, etc.), whereas boys did all of the engineering, electronics, and programming work. The blatant gender disparity within the STEM field was baffling. Every student, regardless of gender, or other intrinsic differences, deserves an equal footing on the playing field. 

Thus, a few determined female students decided to form a new team, the FeMaidens, a team that highlights the STEM prowess and dexterity of underrepresented groups at Bronx Science. Fifteen years later, the FeMaidens have won numerous accolades, with their most recent win being the 2021 Regional Chairman’s Award, the highest achievement one can receive in robotics.

As a current member of the FeMaidens team, as well the Marketing co-head of the team, I have experienced the highs and lows of pre-pandemic, current pandemic, and post pandemic robotics. The stories that I ‘eye-witnessed’ during my countless days at the familiar and comfortable computer labs and in the comfort of my own home were satchels of hilarity, continuity, and excitement that I was ready to explore. 

Marketing co-head Loretta Eng ’22 works on contacting sponsorships and applying for federal grants. (Elizabeth Jung)

Pev Vail ’22, one of our Engineering heads, utilized his time wisely during the pandemic.  “Virtual robotics was actually really nice for me. More free time meant more CAD (Computer-Aided Design) time, and I could experiment with stuff like FEA in ANSYS as well as adding extra animations to my joints and things like that. I also built a PC…last, last spring? Two springs ago? So I got great use out of it when I had to run ANSYS simulations for everyone,” said Vail. 

Haydn Long ’22, our current captain as well as Programming head, has a different take. “Robotics virtually was a strange experience. I think one of the biggest things about robotics is the amount of time you spend with your teammates each week, and while we still had meetings, the feeling of seeing someone through a screen just doesn’t match the feeling of seeing them in person,” Long said. Many members of the team share Long’s point of view. 

“When I saw the Fe Maidens driving Polysteamus (the 2017 robot) around at the open house during my 7th grade year, I knew I wanted to be on the team before I was even attending Bronx Science,” said Captain and Programming Head Haydn Long ’22.
(Elizabeth Jung)

“My department, Programming, is really all about our relaxing environment — chatting while we work, sharing and eating snacks, and overall, just spending time together for hours every day. And we missed out on that this year,” Long said.  

As the FeMaidens once again follow their normal rigorous in-person schedules, the combination of CADing, assorting gadgets, and reorganizing the shop which was left untouched for two years are high hurdles. “I can’t even bite my nails because I have a mask on,” Vail said, sharing a sentiment that many of the team members feel as they adjust to being back in the building after eighteen months of remote learning. 

The FeMaidens have been meeting two days a week in the beginning of the year during the months of September and October 2021, but will soon meet five days a week, including 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. sessions on Saturdays. 

Members have been adjusting to this change in schedule, now that the team is in-person again. Isabella (Bella) Pensabene ’23 noted the transition from virtual to in-person schooling: “For me, the hardest thing is having to wake up so early and getting less sleep.” 

Yet, despite the challenges which we all face as we resume the full time high school experience, the members of The Bronx High School of Science’s all-girls Robotics team are ready to take on this year’s work with the utmost determination.

Pev Vail ’22 is the first transgender member of the FeMaidens team as well as a dedicated Engineering co-head. (Elizabeth Jung)

The three FeMaidens members quoted above all have their individual remarks and observations, yet one quote rings true for all: ”I’m just really happy to be back.”

“I also built a PC…last, last spring? Two springs ago? So I got great use out of it when I had to run ANSYS simulations for everyone,” said Pev Vail ’22.

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