Nerdy Girls

My sister and I launched Nerdy Girls, a Washington based non-profit, in January 2017. Nerdy Girls was born out of concern for the fact that few girls participate in high school robotics, and even fewer hold technical roles on these teams. Read about my story here.

Nerdy Girls is carving out a new culture around girls and robotics where none has ever existed before. We host weekly Friday night meetups for teen girls in Ellensburg where girls can battle their way through a systematic progression of robot builds and programming languages that we call The Quest.

The Quest is a curriculum of 20-25 YouTube tutorials that we’ve developed over the last few years. It is designed to be the ultimate training ground where a girl comes in with zero technical skills and goes on a difficult quest to become a master robot trainer. She walks away ready to hold a technical role on a competitive team and ready for higher education in a technical field.

In 2017, Nerdy Girls also started two all-girls robotics teams that participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge league and that completed their 3rd season in 2020. I ran the veteran team (the old-and-ripe team) and my sister Parker ran the rookie team (the young-and-fresh team). My sister and I have handled all aspects of the teams without mentors or coaches and our teams qualified for the state championship in 2 out of 3 seasons.

Since our launch, we have provided intensive robotics training to more than 50 girls in our county. We’ve also shared our vision with U.S. Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Congresswoman Kim Schrier who visited our secret location to meet our members and see their work in action.

Though the pandemic threw a wrench in our master plan and forced us to pause our Friday night meetups, we are hatching a plan to exponentially extend our reach in the post-pandemic era.

Now, our master plan is to take the Nerdy Girls culture online. We are in the process of building an MMORPG-style video game where girls can virtually meet up to train robots together. Visit the Nerdy Girls website to learn more.

Check out some of my sample tutorials here!

The Robot Underground


Over the last six years, my sister and I have participated on four robotics teams (two of which we’ve founded) in three robotics leagues, with a combined 14 seasons between us. We’ve spent thousands of hours on the internet, wading through a sea of robotics information in order to push our own skills forward and to create tutorials for the members of Nerdy Girls. We’ve spent many hundreds of hours providing hands-on robotics training to kids of all ages in our community. We’ve had numerous conversations with frustrated parents who want to help their kids master robotics at home. After immersing ourselves in this world for so many years, we’ve come to a hard conclusion.

Kids who are born into the wrong zip code will not have access to the life-changing robotics experience that we had. If a kid doesn’t have access to robotics at school, then it’s game over. It’s hard to believe, but there is no online path to mastery for a kid who wants to build robots at home. It simply does not exist. It is virtually impossible for a beginner to break into robotics at home, because the vast majority of robotics information on the internet is made up of expensive, disorganized, and non-systematic projects. The only programs out there are entry level, are limited to virtual robots, and drop you off a cliff when you are ready to advance. And the more advanced robotic kits on the market are too expensive and are not designed for the individual at-home robot builder. If you’re lucky enough to live in an affluent area, you might have access to a robotics team through your school. If you’re not so lucky, the brick wall is real and it’s hard to break through.

This frustrating realization led us to a pivotal idea, namely that we needed to find a way to democratize robotics, to make our Nerdy Girls curriculum available to kids everywhere, and create a clearly defined path through the overwhelming sea of information on the internet.

Enter The Robot Underground

And so, as fate would have it, this pandemic pause gave us the opportunity to dig deep and build what we think is our greatest work to date. We call this creation The Robot Underground, and it will be the world’s best online robotics curriculum for rogue middle school and high school teens who want to build more advanced robots. Building on our Nerdy Girls curriculum, The Robot Underground will be the first of its kind: a completely free and open source YouTube-based robotics curriculum geared toward renegades everywhere who want to break into robotics from the comfort of their own home.

The Robot Underground will provide comprehensive, robust, step-by-step training that will weave together the various threads of robotics (building, coding, circuitry, math, and physics) and will ultimately enable a teen to walk into the university on day one, over-prepared for their launch into a technical major.

The curriculum will consist of 23 “core” guided projects accompanied by 3 “skill paths” in the realms of Python, circuitry, and math+physics (a library totaling more than 220 YouTube tutorials) that will guide the user through the increasingly complex projects. They will not only acquire an arsenal of hard technical skills, but, we think most importantly, they will walk away with the ability to be technically agile and to teach themselves any new skill.

Over the years, our work with Nerdy Girls has given us a wealth of experience and has sharpened our perspective. We have a strong vision for how robotics knowledge should be acquired, and our style of tutorial is different from anything else out there: professional, well-produced, accessible, meticulous, and a wee bit spicy.

My sister Parker develops the mechanical and electrical side of the curriculum, and I develop the coding and algorithms side of the curriculum. Through extensive internet research to nail down the detailed steps of each project, I have gained experience in coding in C/C++ and Python using software development tools like Eclipse IDE and Visual Studio Code, using Git and GitHub for version control, and developing algorithms such as PID for motor control--with much more robot research and development to come in the next several months.

Check out The Robot Underground curriculum.

We will start dropping our new Robot Underground tutorials in March 2021 and intend to have it fully finished by the fall of 2021.

Spicy Meatbots

Almost immediately after launching Nerdy Girls, we ran into a daunting issue. Where are the robotics kits designed for intermediate-to-advanced kids? We were big fans of the VEX IQ system for beginners, and we knew what coding, building, and electrical skills needed to come after the beginner stage, but we couldn’t find a robotics platform that would service the acquisition of more advanced skills.

We decided, two years ago, that since no one else seemed to be tackling this issue, we would attempt to design and assemble our own lower-cost robotics platform designed for the at-home robot builder.

Despite our knowledge shortcomings at the time, we decided to employ a divide-and-conquer strategy to see what we could figure out. My sister focused on cracking open the electrical and mechanical side of the kit, and I jumped in at the software end. I did a deep-dive on programming the Arduino board, consulting forums as needed. I logged some serious hours on YouTube and GitHub, trying to figure out how different software libraries that coders had contributed to the codiverse worked, and pulling them together to bring different robots to life. I worked on creating an Eclipse IDE-Git-GitHub workflow that would be accessible to students. I even got the chance to translate one of my favorite control algorithms, PID, into C/C++ for an Arduino robot to understand.

It took many, many iterations and hours of work, but in the end we brought all the pieces together in a crescendo of robotical epicality. At last, the robots that my sister designed worked with my code! And thus, Spicy Meatbots was born.

Here’s the secret recipe:

Actobotics mechanical parts + our own 3D printed parts + the Arduino board + cheap Amazon-able electronics + open-source software libraries = Spicy Meatbots.

Check out our introduction video to Spicy Meatbots.

After having a beta version of this kit tested out by the members of Nerdy Girls, we are tweaking and expanding it, and hope to team up with some distribution partners this year to bring this kit to the masses.