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Spelman SpelBots Mentor District Students In Robotics

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SpelBot Jazmine Miller shows off her robot Charlie. The Spelman College "SpelBots" visited Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Shaw to encourage students to pursue careers in science and technology.
Jessica Gould
SpelBot Jazmine Miller shows off her robot Charlie. The Spelman College "SpelBots" visited Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Shaw to encourage students to pursue careers in science and technology.

By Jessica Gould

A middle school in the District has just launched a new, all-girls competitive robotics team. And they're getting some help from the experts.

Jonecia Keels was always good at computer science. But she never expected to make a career out of it.

"Because when I looked at, you know, who was famous in it, it was Steve Jobs, Bill Gates – but no one who looked like me," she recalls. "No females. No African Americans."

Then she arrived at Spelman College in Atlanta, where she joined the campus robotics team. Together, the students build robots, and then use those robots to compete against teams from across the globe. A few years ago, the SpelBots became the first all-women, African American team to compete in the world championship of robotics.

"And I just hope the future youth can see themselves as being computer scientists one day," Keels says.

So Keels and her fellow SpelBots are making the rounds, visiting D.C. schools and spreading the gospel of science.

Afia Tius is a sixth grader at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Northwest. She says she finds the SpelBots inspiring.

"There aren’t a lot of African-Americans doing these sorts of jobs and we should have some role models who are women and are in math and science," she says.

Tius is a member of Howard University Middle School's brand-new all-girls robotics team. She says she's determined to be among the next generation of champions.

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