At a glance
- Rachel Arnold and Olivia Klotz took gold at the 2016 SkillsUSA® national championships.
- The team's robot and presentation impressed the judges.
- Both ladies are proud to represent women in engineering.
LOUISVILLE, KY – Two young ladies joined forces this year
for the SkillsUSA Robotics: Urban Search & Rescue competition – a
male-dominated arena – and proved that they could take the lead and
continue a legacy.
Rachel Arnold and Olivia Klotz, both now seniors at Blackstone
Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton,
Massachusetts, took the gold at the 2016 SkillsUSA national
championships. Though this was their first appearance at nationals,
half the team wasn’t new to USAR. Last year, Rachel and her former
teammate took bronze at state, being beaten out by her big brother,
Dillon Arnold, and his partner, Tony Arrigo.
Olivia had never worked in robotics, but a teacher encouraged her
to team up with Rachel. At Blackstone Valley, Rachel is in the Electronics
and Engineering Technology program, while Olivia is in the Drafting
and Engineering Technology program.
“Coming from different programs at BVT, we were able to share
our knowledge with each other,” added Rachel. “She is very efficient
in AutoCAD, while I am efficient with the construction of the robot and
considering what the robot needs to function. Teamwork is a huge
factor in the success of the competition.”
The partnership worked as the ladies took bronze at districts,
though that usually means the team won’t go to state. Another district
in the state didn’t have enough teams competing to advance, so the
duo was given a second chance.
“This experience drove us to work even harder during the state’s
competition,” Rachel said. “We kept pushing ourselves to be the best
we could. Once we thought we were the best, we pushed a little more,
so we were always improving and never settled.”
The result was that they took gold at state. They continued to
fine-tune their robot and improve their presentation and engineering
notebook, which paid off as they impressed the championship judges
enough to take the gold.
“Their robot was built with experience from previous competitions,
knowledge of the course and technical standards, and was well
tested,” said Alan Kirby, national tech committee chair for USAR. “Their
engineering notebook documented the entire design iteration process
and told the complete story.”
"IF HE CAN DO IT, I CAN DO IT."
The competitors agreed on one thing: they are representing
women in engineering.
“Actually, it’s one of the things I’m the most proud of,” Olivia said.
“I’ve already seen the difference in what it’s like to be a woman in the
engineering fields. I’ve started talking to various colleges, and every
one of them has been extremely surprised about my choice in major:
mechanical engineering. I’m proud to be a potential role model for any
young woman entering engineering.”
Rachel seconds this.
“I constantly think to myself, as all girls should, ‘If he can do it, I can
do it,’” Rachel said. “I think that girls can do anything they want. They
shouldn’t let someone or something stand in their way. It seems as
though girls were never thought to build robots, become engineers, or
be as smart as boys. But because of people like me, girls can gain the
confidence they need to do anything they set their minds to.”
She hopes their performance helps to change misconceptions
about girls in engineering.
“I feel that because two girls from Massachusetts won the gold medal
at nationals, many more girls will pursue their interest in robotics. It takes
one person, well in this case two people, to start a chain reaction and
change the way people view girls in robotics or engineering.”
CONTINUING A LEGACY
Olivia and Rachel are doing more than paving the way for other
girls – they are continuing a legacy for Blackstone Valley and for
Rachel’s brother Dillon. He and Tony took the championship gold last
year, and Dillon also earned bronze in 2014 and gold in 2013.
Rachel said that her team was affected by the legacy and mentorship
of the two young men, adding that they discussed robotics with her,
helped pack the team’s robot and toolbox for the championships, and
kept in contact during the competition in Louisville.
Between sister and brother, there was a special moment before
Rachel left to compete.
“The day before I left for nationals, Dillon told me to close my eyes, so
I did,” she said. “I felt him put something heavy around my neck; I knew
exactly what it was. He told me to open them and I saw his gold medal he
won at nationals hanging on my neck. ‘There, now you know what it feels
like. Take it with you to Kentucky and bring home another one,’ he told me.
“This made me want to win even more and gave me more confidence
than ever. I feel very proud to keep the gold medal in the Arnold family.”