The all-girl after school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) team, #STEMinists, are returning to Lincoln City, Ore., to compete in the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) challenge on April 20.

While the #STEMinists didn’t place last year, they earned the best team spirit award.

The ROV competition is a contest in which teams of middle school students compete to build the best remotely operated submersible vehicle, capable of performing a complex set of underwater missions. Additionally, the teams must explain, or rather “market” their ROV to the judges by stating how it will be best used, based on the theme of the competition.

This year’s theme for the ROV competition is how ROVs can be used to help inspect dams and clean water systems.

“We will be taking the girls on a field trip to Bonneville Dam, so they can kind of get an idea of how their robot can be effective for this theme,” said Dorinda Belcher, head of Afterschool Activities for the White Salmon Valley School District.

The #STEMinists program is funded in part by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.

“This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children,” according to the United States Department of Education website.

The #STEMinists meet after school at Gorge Makerspace where they are supported by Makerspace Director Jack Perrin.

The one thing the grant does not cover is housing for overnight trips like this one to Lincoln City, prompting the creation of a GoFundMe campaign.

“We have 24 girls total in #STEMinists this year, for half of them this will be their first time competing in this ROV competition. The funds are going towards lodging and meals for the three-day trip,” said Belcher.

As of March 25, the GoFundMe had surpassed its $2,500 goal and has raised $2,820.

Additionally, Gorge Makerspace will be hosting an open house fundraiser on April 9 at 6 p.m. where participants will have a chance to drive the ROV.

As for what the girls anticipate from the competition?

The ones who participated last year say they have a better idea of what to expect from the judges and the competition on the whole and they plan to place this year.

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