Firebirds want robot championship

April 5, 2011 9:01:31 PM PDT
When school is out, the basement of Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown comes alive with the sound of power tools and... something else.

"Sometimes I've brought my friends down here," confides Mary Entwistle of Mt. St. Joseph Academy, "and they're like 'I didn't know you did all this!'"

But they did.

Every last one of a special group of high school girls have the skill and the will to be "The Firebirds."

"We are one of the longest-running all-girls robotics teams in the world!" says

For the firebirds, it is competition season and they're entering FIRST Robotics, which is known as the Super Bowl of smarts.

Mary Entwistle, the team president, told Action News, "What we're trying to show people, we're more than just an all-girls team, we're a great team in and of ourselves we just happen to be all girls."

To back it up, they've won several regional championships. But that's not enough; these girls want the national title and now's their chance. However, creating that perfect robot takes a lot of work.

The girls brought Action News into their world as they began their 6-week journey to build two robots that can complete a series of tasks swiftly and smoothly. Over time, there are many prototypes. Many fail. But finally, something works.

"This year we had challenges with parts not coming in on time," Entwistle says, "having to work on extra time crunch due to school and snow."

It's a lot of pressure for teens who already have a lot on their plates.

So why do they do it? Not all of these girls want to be engineers.

"There's so many things I can do here on the team," says Kathryn Glover, a senior, "It's just sort of like, if I want to build a robot one day I can. I never feel limited in robotics."

For them, it's a sense of empowerment and breaking barriers.

"It's not ballet class, it's pretty technical," says Evelyn Flashner, a senior. "People see that and they see that ambition and it helps people see women as engineers."

So whether they win or lose, these ladies have already conquered. But don't be fooled.

"We still want to win, we like the trophies!"

The Firebirds have both Facebook and Twitter accounts that you can follow.

The competition this weekend, the 2011 Philly FIRST Regional Tournament, has no admission charge. It takes place at Temple University, April 7-9, 2011 at:
The Liacouras Center
1776 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19121