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Girl Scouts show robotics for senator

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., visited the Girl Scouts of New Mexico to participate in a robotics project with scouts and to talk about the importance of girls in STEM.

Last month, the Girl Scouts of the USA announced the introduction of 23 new merit badges for the outdoors and STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. On Wednesday, older girls assisted younger scouts building a mechanical arm for a robot, which is one of the steps required for earning a Brownie level “Designing Robots” badge, said Allie Burnquist, the STEM program manager for the New Mexico Girl Scouts.

Last month, the Girl Scouts of the USA announced the introduction of 23 new merit badges for the outdoors and STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. On Wednesday, older girls assisted younger scouts building a mechanical arm for a robot, which is one of the steps required for earning a Brownie level “Designing Robots” badge, said Allie Burnquist, the STEM program manager for the New Mexico Girl Scouts.

Heinrich emphasized to the girls the importance of staying involved in STEM.

“When I got my engineering degree, for every woman who was in one of my classes there were about eight men in those same classes,” he said. “We can't do that as a country because we need women scientists and we need women who are advocates. And that's where all of you come in.”

The two girls leading the project were 14-year-old Alejandra Zerrate and 13-year-old Cora Cummins. Younger scouts, some 5 years old, watched with rapt attention as the older girls demonstrated how to build the arm by drilling holes into Popsicle sticks and connecting them using toothpicks.

Both Cora and Alejandra were excited to pass on their knowledge to the younger girls.

“It feels cool because just imagine what they're going to grow up to be,” said Cora.

The girls also said that even before the new badges were introduced, Girl Scouts offered and encouraged participation in STEM programs. For example, high school juniors Catherine Rousculp and Summer Bronson from Los Alamos said their involvement in Girl Scouts lead to their participation in a science fair at the White House in 2013, where they demonstrated their project – a cooling headband meant to treat insomnia in senior citizens – to former President Barack Obama.

Going into the future, Alejandra said she hopes that young scouts who are passionate about STEM will stick with it.

“Be involved,” she said. “If you want to do something, do it, because if it's a passion of yours, why stop?”

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