Hazen High School junior Emily Blundred said her passion is to take apart machines and then put it all back together. She wants to understand how it all works.
“That’s how I’ve always been, everything has made me a little curious,” Blundred said. “I was curious about robotics, and it worked out pretty well.”
Blundred, team captain and project manager for Hazen High School’s robotics team, was a finalist for this year’s National Robotics Dean’s List. She is one of four students recognized in Washington state.
The Hazen robotics team has been meeting for about six years. Robotics teams typically spend between September and November designing, building and programming a new robot each year. The team ranges in size between 15 to 25 members.
By making it as a dean’s list finalist, Blundred was invited to attend the Houston, Texas For Inspiration and Recogniztion of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics championship. She was able to attend activities, other team booths and see the robotics competitions for her league and the upper-league.
Dave Goldy, a retired Boeing software engineer, is one of the coaches at Hazen. He said he was incredibly excited for Blundred to make the dean’s list. She got to experience some of the best teams in the world at the Houston event, and brought back ideas to help Hazen as well.
Jonathan Clark is the other robotics coach, and teaches aerospace manufacturing, construction and welding at the high school. He said he met Blundred when she arrived at a robotics meeting as a freshman.
Blundred said she wanted to join a club to get to know students at Hazen, after attending St. Anthony’s in downtown Renton. Robotics wasn’t something she’d been offered before and wanted to try it out.
“I was never a brainiac, I wasn’t the math kid,” Blundred said.
At first, robotics was intimidating, but getting thrown in helped her learn quick, she said.
Blundred has grown from a young woman who was curious about STEM, to a team leader and mentor for other students of many ages, Clark said.
She started as a fabricator, building the robot, then she became a public relations officer to help get sponsors and now she’s captain. She also took a class last year where she learned the other side of the robotics team like programming and design.
As a public relations officer, she needed to find sponsors for the team and reach out about fundraisers. Blundred said it was a lot of work, but helped her learn how to manage social media and send professional emails.
Since joining the team, Blundred pushed more community outreach by participating in local elementary school STEM nights. She said they would bring their robot to these events to encourage kids to get interested in robotics.
Blundred was also the person who helped Maplewood Heights Elementary School students create a robotics team.
This year as team manager she needed to supervise everyone, and have a realistic understanding of the other sections. Both coaches and freshman teammember Andrew Lana said Blundred keeps things organized.
Lana is a designer who has been 3D designing and printing the prototypes for the robot this year. He said he hopes to take a leadership role under Blundred next year, and that she’s been able to allow each person to use their individual talents, while keeping the team on task.
While he’s impressed that Blundred made the Dean’s list, Lana said she deserved the distinction for working so hard. He said she is one of the few who made it to almost every meeting this year.
Clark said Blundred has been an important part of their success. He said she brings passion that is unmatched by others, and only to make other people better. He guesses at peak season she spends an extra 20 hours a week on robotics duties.
“When other people are resting after robotics, she’s still working, organizing and making something new for the next day,” Clark said.
Being in robotics has taught her a lot about working with different people, and navigating the robotics as new to the field, and being a girl in what’s been previously a male-dominated field.
She said while she’s friends with the guys on the team, she has had to prove herself.
“As a person, I’ve grown a lot with robotics,” Blundred said. “By standing up for myself, I think it makes it better for every girl.”
Clark said that Blundred is an example of a woman making room for herself in a field that maybe wasn’t as accepting 10 years ago. He said not only does she have a bright future ahead of herself, but she’s inspiring other girls in her school to participate in STEM summer camps and activities.
Blundred said she everyone interested in robotics to know that the field is growing a lot, and anyone can be in science, technology, engineering or math classes (STEM) or robotics. She wants students who might be interested to give it a chance, and that there’s more than just math to it, but creativity and imagination.
What gets Goldy excited about robotics is that kids can exercise creative thinking.
“I believe as we look at the future, we need people that can do that creative thinking rather than just recite the multiplication tables,” Goldy said.