Katie Chapman joined youngsters from 15 local schools at Stamford Bridge on Thursday as part of an international robotics competition, designed to bring STEM (science, technology, maths and engineering) skills to life.
The VEX Robotics World Championship challenges teams of students with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, and communication.
Thursday’s regional event at Stamford Bridge was organised by the Chelsea Foundation with two of the best performing school now set to compete against other schools from up and down the country for the chance to represent the UK in Louisville, Kentucky this April.
One of the core focuses and challenges for the Foundation was involving girls and with 80 per cent of those in attendance female and former Chelsea FC Women’s captain Chapman was delighted to see so many young women in attendance.
‘I’ve loved being here and watching the girls challenge each other and pick up new skills,’ said the ten-time FA Women’s Cup winner and club ambassador.
‘It was great to get involved and if I’d had this opportunity as a kid I would have taken it.
‘The aim is to get more girls in to and enjoying STEM subjects and events like this will do that and push them in that direction, which in turn will help the community.’
The overall competition is organised by The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (REC) and supported by organisations such as software corporation Autodesk and will engage more than 11,500 teams from 40 countries playing in over 750 tournaments.
Autodesk have been big supporters of the Chelsea Foundation for the last two years having assisted with our unique Digital Blue programme and Matthew Bell, head of global strategic alliances, at Autodesk, was delighted with how the day unfolded.
He said: ‘The aim is to get children involved in this sort of thing as early as possible and a big part of our work is about diversity which is why it is so fantastic to see so many girls here.
‘Ultimately, we know there is a global skill shortage and we need to inspire young people to get involved in STEM subjects and it is great to work with the Foundation on this.
‘It has been brilliant working with the Chelsea Foundation. We have been involved in the Digital Blues programme for some time and it is refreshing to see a football club work in the STEM field.
‘It is important that kids understand STEM is all around us, including at a football club like Chelsea and understanding it could land you a job here!
‘You can see by being here and surrounded by Chelsea gives the kids energy and puts smiles on their faces, so putting STEM and Chelsea together is very unique and what Chelsea is doing is a footprint and model that should and hopefully will be copied by teams around the world.’
Teacher Joe Coyle, from Holy Cross Primary School in Fulham, added: ‘The girls came to an event a few months ago when we got an introduction in to robotics and got the kit needed for the competition. Since then we’ve been doing after-school clubs to learn about and build the robot, geared around the games involved in the competition.
‘It is very important to learn these skills, and for us it was massively helpful as it is geared towards girls, and getting more girls involved in science and giving them opportunities they might not get usually.
‘We work a lot with the Chelsea Foundation and grab every opportunity we get. They are great for the kids and they respond so well to the badge and being at Stamford Bridge which makes it hugely beneficial.’