Thin Mints, Carmel DeLites and now ‘Space Cookies.’

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay area and Monterey Bay area have joined forces to sponsor an all-girls robotics team, the Space Cookies. Team 1868 is comprised of 12 girls from several San Francisco Bay area high schools who formed a Girl Scout troop dedicated to math, science, engineering, and technology.

“NASA is committed to building the next generation of robotics engineers that come with new ideas and fresh approaches to the challenges of space exploration,” said Mark Leon, NASA Ames education director. “One way to accomplish this is to attract and retain a diverse work force. The Girl Scouts are a strong step in this direction.”

The Space Cookies currently draw their team members from public and private high schools in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, San Jose and Santa Cruz.

“We come from different schools, different counties, and different lives,” explained Meghna Dholakia, a freshman at Gunn High School, Palo Alto, Calif. “Somehow we were all insane enough to decide that the task of building and programming a robot in six weeks would be ‘kinda’ fun.

Each year, FIRST Robotics develops a robotics challenge and teams have six-weeks to design and build a robot from identical kits that addresses the challenge’s scenario. At the end of the development period, all the new robots are shipped to the location of their local regional competition. The Space Cookies sent their robot to the Event Center at San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif., for the Silicon Valley Region, March 16-18, 2006.

Building a robot was a daunting task, as 11 of the 12 girls have no experience even remotely related to building a robot. Fortunately they were all up to the challenge. In addition, there is a dedicated group of adult mentors comprised of parents, business people and engineers from NASA, local companies and universities to help the girls. NASA Ames’ all-boys FIRST team, the Cheezy Poofs, who built their own robot, also provided technical advice and insight into the competitions.

“The team has demonstrated great patience and enthusiasm during the building of its robot,” said Wendy Holforty, NASA aerospace engineer and team project manager. “I believe they have learned a valuable lesson about not just engineering, but also about who they are and that they are capable of anything once they put their minds to it.”

The Space Cookies have high hopes for their first competition and wherever they end up in the standings, the girls will be back to compete next year with more experience and a greater desire to win, according to Jennifer Johnson, team manager.

NASA’s collaboration with FIRST is coordinated through NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project. The project was created to bring together students, engineers, private organizations and other government resources to pursue the goal of increasing robotics expertise in the United States.

The Robotics Alliance Project is directed by Dave Lavery, program executive for solar system exploration and is supported through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

FIRST was established in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to motivate students to enter careers in math, science and engineering. FIRST is in its fifteenth year of competition.

For more information about FIRST Robotics and regional competition dates and locations, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project, visit:

For more information about the Girl Scouts, visit: