Classroom Best Practice  |  

Want to Close the STEM Gender Gap? Start in Kindergarten

Mar 6, 2018

Women make up only about a quarter of the workforce in the tech industry, and that number is predicted to shrink over the next decade. How do we reverse this trend? Research suggests that if girls can stick with computer science up to the AP level in high school, they are 10 times more likely to pursue the subject in college. The challenge is that many never develop the interest during the elementary years.

How can we inspire girls when they’re young to try out and stick with computer science? Could robotics be part of the answer?

panel discussion will address the STEM gender gap and other related challenges at SXSWedu® on Tuesday, March 7, 2018, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon C. The panelists are: Vikas Gupta, co-founder & CEO of Wonder Workshop; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and parent expert at Girl Scouts of America; Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; and Cynthia Cooksey, librarian at Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary School in the McAllen Independent School District, Texas.

Wonder Workshop’s co-founder and CEO, Vikas Gupta, is passionate about this subject and wrote about it for Forbesmagazine last fall. Gupta is a father of two, and it was the time he spent with his daughter when she was first born that inspired him to start Wonder Workshop, to tackle the gender gap in STEM and make coding accessible and fun for boys and girls of all ages.

Andrea Bastiani Archibald, of Girl Scouts of America, speaks about the exclusive data generated by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), which publishes reports on different topics as they affect girl development and leadership. Some of those reports include “The Vote Is In: What Americans Say About the Importance of Girls’ Issues”; “The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls”; and the recent “State of Girls: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends,” a synthesis of data from national agencies reflecting changes in the overall health and well-being of girls in the United States.

Kimberly Bryant is the founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7–17) to the field of technology and computer science, with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. Black Girls CODE has reached over 3,000 students and continues to grow and thrive.

Cynthia Cooksy is the librarian at Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary in the McAllen Independent School District, and is this year’s Texas Librarian of the Year. She has been an active leader in the library community since becoming a librarian 14 years ago. She was named Teacher of the Year for her school and district the year she introduced coding to her school. She has coached teams who have competed and placed in the Wonder League Robotics Competition, and has taught teachers throughout her district how to use Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot robots to teach coding. Cooksy has found that once kids see how the robots make a seemingly abstract concept like coding feel tangible, they get it — just as her students do in the library day after day. Read more about her experience bringing coding and robotics to Texas schools in her article for The Hechinger Report.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators has teamed up with SXSW EDU to provide educators continuing education credits while attending sessions at SXSWEdu. This panel discussion is a qualifying event. SXSW EDU attendees will receive a code that they can use to log in to the ATPE Professional Learning Portal to receive the credit. You don’t have to be an ATPE member to use the ATPE system. You can log on as a guest to claim credit for your CPE hours. Whether SXSW EDU CPE hours are accepted outside the state of Texas varies by location. Some places accept hours from other states, and some don’t. Check with your school or district, and review your state’s requirements, to see what counts toward your CPE.

We look forward to hearing about the discussion and sharing new insights with you soon!

Wonder League Robotics Competition FAQ | Year 8

Hello, robotics enthusiasts! If you’re here, you’re probably as excited as we are about the 8th Annual Wonder League Robotics Competition! To help you and your teams have the best possible experience competing this year, we wanted to share answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Who Can Compete:

Any kid, anywhere in the world, ages 6-8 (Innovator Cup) and 9-12 (Pioneer Cup). There are two age brackets: 6-8 and 9-12 and team members have to fall within the age category at some point during the competition. Participants must be the qualifying age for their bracket on the last day of the competition, but if they gain a year during the competition, that’s OK. They won’t age out! 

Competition Brackets:

  • Innovator Cup (Age 6-8)
  • Pioneer Cup (Age 9-12)

What Makes a Team:

A team is made up of a supervising adult coach, and one or more children (up to 5). That’s right, kids can compete solo, but a coach who is 18+ is needed to help with the submission process. For multi-kid teams, each member must be in the same age bracket. Coaches may have multiple teams and can register all their teams after registering as a coach. Please keep in mind that each team will need a separate Class Connect registration.

Note: Younger students may participate in the 9-12 age category, but please be aware that the missions have been designed with older students and advanced coding skills in mind.

What a Team Needs to Compete:

Class Connect subscription

The team is made up of a supervising adult coach and one to five members

  1. Compatible device
  2. 5′ x 8′ mat of 30cm squares and basic prototyping materials
  3. Teams in 6-8 & 9-12 age brackets will need a Dash robot
  4. Internet access to download and upload materials

Teams will need one Dash robot:

Check Device Compatibility here:

We will be offering a mat image that you are welcome to use and print with your local printer, but teams are absolutely encouraged to make their own if they prefer. For more on how to make your own mat, check out this blog post.

Coaches will, of course, need internet access to download the apps and keep up with the competition as it progresses, and may want to print out some kid-facing materials that we will provide at each stage.

Class Connect Subscription:

To register for the 8th Wonder League Robotics Competition requires a subscription to Class Connect, providing additional resources like standards-aligned content assignable right inside a student’s Blockly app. Learn more about Class Connect here.

If you already have a Class Connect subscription, you have access to register a team, based on your student license amount. If you have more than one team of 5 students, you will need to purchase another Coach Success Pack or consider a larger subscription to accommodate more teams and students.

  1. A Coach Success Pack provides:
    Participation in the WLRC for up to 5 students
    Access to all Missions
    Full access to Class Connect, (including Math Activities and Dash’s Neighborhood), for 5 students and 1 teacher for 7 months
    A discount code for a Dash robot from our online store at

Please note: Teams will need a physical Dash robot to complete the Missions.
The Coaches’ Dashboard in Class Connect will help our coaches register and manage their team(s). The dashboard will be your one-stop shop for all Wonder League Robotics Competition management. You will be able to access the Coaches’ Corner–where all competition-related content and resources will be hosted–the Heartbeat community forum, and all the submission forms right there on the Dashboard.

Accessing Missions for the Innovator Cup and Pioneer Cup:

Once your purchase is completed for Class Connect, you will receive an email to activate your Class Connect license.

Once this license is activated, you will be able to register yourself as a coach and register your teams. This is done on your portal page under the Robotics Competition tab.

Once your team/teams are registered, you will get an additional email from CoAssemble, our partner hosting the missions this year. This email will state you have been registered for the “2022-2023 Coaches Corner Course”.

Click on the link to be redirected to the CoAssemble website, and you will see the course and can access the Coaches’ Corner Guide as well as the Missions (available November 3, 2022).

Still having trouble accessing all the resources in the Coaches’ Corner? If you have previously had a license to Class Connect and registered as a coach, and have not seen Coaches’ Corner added to your CoAssemble list of courses, please email us at, and we will provide assistance.

Last Year’s Missions:

Taking a peek at last year’s missions might help you get a sense of what the competition is like. Just sign in with your Class Connect subscription and register as a coach to take a peek at the previous years by going to the Coaches’ Corner and selecting the desired year.

2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Milestone Dates:

Here are important milestone dates to keep in mind as coaches develop timelines for teams competing in the 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition.


  1. October 21, 2022: Student Team Registration Opens
  2. November 3, 2022: Round One Opens + Five Mission Released
  3. January 13, 2023: Student Team Registration Closes
  4. January 27, 2023: Mission Evidence Submission Closes 
  5. January 28-March 5, 2023: Invitational Round Notification 
  6. February 6, 2023: Invitational Round Opens + Final Mission Released
  7. March 24, 2023: Invitational Round Submission Due 
  8. April 10, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Opens 
  9. April 21, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Closes 
  10. May 4, 2023: 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Winner Announcement

NEW Award Category: WLRC People’s Choice Award

Teams may opt in to participate in the WLRC People’s Choice Award category by creating a :30 second video explaining the Team’s Invitational Round Final Mission solution that will be shared with the community at in an “online crowd vote” competition. The WLRC People’s Choice Award allows teams to share and celebrate their work in the WLRC and encourage community support in voting for their team. This is an optional category for teams to enter and will not impact scoring of the Invitational Round submission as they will be judged by STEM and Coding experts using a published rubric.

Children’s Privacy:

We take our participants’ privacy very seriously and comply with COPPA when collecting any information. In the invitational round we ask only for the students’ first names, and request parents’ permission. For those that make it into the Invitational Round, we ask for full names, again with permission. We are never marketing, selling to, or corresponding with children. All contact is through the proxy of the coach.