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Spelman Students Shatter Myths About Women as Leaders in Science

Spelman Students Shatter Myths About Women as Leaders in Science

Spelman College students are defying the myth that women are not equipped to be leaders in the sciences. Countless hours of computer programming in between hitting the books have paid off for six Spelman students, who earned the college a coveted spot in an international competition.

From July 13-19, the all-female team, along with their squad of programmed Sony AIBO entertainment robots, was in Osaka, Japan, for RoboCup 2005, where they competed against 23 other academic institutions from around the world. The Coca-Cola Co., sponsored the team with a $50,000 scholarship to ensure they had the resources needed to successfully compete in this prestigious competition, and NASA was also a sponsor.

The Japan competition is not the first major match the students have experienced. The team also participated for the first time in the third annual RoboCup U.S. Open on the campus of Georgia Tech in May.

Spelman was one of eight U.S. schools competing in the tournament’s four-legged league. In Japan, Spelman was one of only five U.S. teams competing. The others were Georgia Tech, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University. The College is also the only undergraduate institution, the only HBCU and the only all-women’s institution to qualify for the Japan competition. “This is a great accomplishment for [Spelman] students,” says faculty adviser Dr. Andrew B. Williams.

In preparation for both RoboCup tournaments, students Aryen Moore-Alston, Brandy Kinlaw, Ebony Smith, Karina Liles, Ebony O’Neal and Shinese Noble, along with Williams, wrote complex algorithms, computer software programs normally created by graduate-level students, that allowed sophisticated Sony AIBO ERS-7 robots to not only play soccer using fundamental motions like kicking, passing and blocking, but to also make decisions on game strategy, all without the use of a remote control. The result: four Sony AIBOs programmed to play a competitive game of soccer against another robot team — quite a feat for a group of computer science majors who have researched and studied robot control systems for less than a year.

Spelman earned a spot in the tournament by submitting a technical application, which included video footage that demonstrated the team’s research and technical approach.

“It speaks to the continued importance of an institution like Spelman,” says Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman. “We still need environments where those who have been historically left out are expected to succeed without the barriers often associated with gender or race, particularly in science and technology.”

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