SWE Unites Hundreds of Youths at Cal Poly for Robotics Tournament 

Group of SWE volunteers gather for a photo at the robotics competition they were hosting
Cal Poly’s Society of Women Engineers hosted the annual VEX Central Coast Competition on Jan. 27. Planning begins roughly three months before the event, culminating in a significant gathering of volunteers from SWE on the day. The group included, from left, Victoria Laurel, Maddie Howard, Robotics Outreach chairs Maliha Hossain and Maya Dewan, along with Jemma Tenenbaum, Erin Malone and Emily Wong.

The Cal Poly Society of Women Engineers welcomed 45 middle and high school robotics teams to the annual VEX Central Coast Competition on Jan. 27, during which they presented a special award to a team that exemplified female empowerment.  

Hundreds of students from across the region, including Fresno and Bakersfield, converged on campus with robots they had spent months constructing to compete in matches held at the Bonderson Projects Center, Advanced Technology Laboratories (ATL) and Engineering Plaza.  

“The competition is always one of the participants’ favorites,” said SWE Robotics Outreach Chair Maliha Hossain. “We always get feedback saying that it is one of the most fun competitions they’ve been to and that our Cal Poly SWE volunteers are the sweetest and super helpful.”  

High school and middle school students compete with their robots in a competition hosted by Cal Poly SWE
High school robotics teams face off at Cal Poly’s Society of Women Engineers’ annual VEX Central Coast Competition on Jan. 27. Matches were held in spaces around Engineering Plaza, including the Advanced Technology Laboratories (ATL), with over 60 SWE volunteers providing support. Volunteers shown in purple shirts, at left, oversee a match in the ATL.  

The VEX Robotics Competition stands as the world’s largest and fastest-growing robotics program for middle and high school students, encompassing over 20,000 teams from 50 countries participating in more than 1,700 competitions globally. Students earn their place in state and world championships by securing spots at regional competitions, such as the one hosted by Cal Poly.  

Hossain credits her participation in VEX Robotics during high school as a pivotal influence on her decision to study biomedical engineering at Cal Poly. Motivated to give back in the same manner that inspired her, she became a member of the Robotics Outreach team, which has spearheaded the Central Coast Competition for over a decade.  

Planning starts about three months before the event, led by a subcommittee of six SWE members. The group handles volunteer recruitment, managing logistics for participating teams, securing necessary equipment and executing publicity strategies.  

On event day, over 60 volunteers took on various roles including referees, judges, operational support and other essential functions.   

“I feel like the competition went so smoothly and it was so amazing to see the hard work the committee put into the event,” Hossain said.  

High school and middle school students gather to tinker with their robots prior to a competition at Cal Poly
Hundreds of students from across the region, including Fresno and Bakersfield, converged at Cal Poly for SWE’s annual VEX Central Coast Competition on Jan. 27. 

SWE also introduced its SWE Innovate Award, aimed at acknowledging a team composed of at least 50% female-identifying members. The award celebrates inclusivity and female empowerment in robotics, fostering a sense of belonging for all members. This year’s recipient was Rambotics G, a team from Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield. 

“Something I feel particularly rewarding is being able to impact the female participants in robotics,” Hossain said. “When I was in high school, I was one of three girls on my team, and it always inspires me to see more female involvement in these fields.”  

SWE’s mission is to create engineering opportunities, provide career and scholastic resources and demonstrate the importance of teamwork to students across the university and the wider community. For more information or to get involved, visit the website here.

By Emily Slater