Vanguard STEM

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi

Mecca, our #GOCinSTEM edition of #WCWinSTEM, is a ninth-grader with a passion for robotics and biology who gives all her endeavors a unique twist!

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca Robinson-Jahi poses for a celebratory photo after learning her all-girls robotics team, EVE, had just gotten sponsorship from the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Responses may be edited for brevity and clarity.

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca is passionate about robotics and biology.

Tell me a story about an experience you had in STEM.

I am part of an all-girls robotics team called EVE, an acronym for “Engineering Vigorously Everyday.”

We participate in FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) challenges, which require us to design, build, program and operate robots in head-to-head competitions.

This summer, we’ve been preparing to build our robot and we’ve been raising funds so we can participate in challenges. I serve as the marketing manager for the team, so I help to oversee the making of our merchandise in addition to managing our social media.

There are two groups in the team: the programmers, and the builders. I am a builder. I love being on the team because it gives me an environment that involves girls leading, doing and loving STEM activities.

Before that, I had participated in the Girl Code Project at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). This camp for girls taught us how to code games using a platform called Gamemaker. My team chose to make an environmental game where the player could pick up trash and recycle it.

What projects or activities are you currently working on or involved in?

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca (center; black tee shirt) and other members of EVE interact with some small children during STEM Day at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, GA.

I am a homeschool student, and as part of my studies, every year my parent assigns a research project. I was brainstorming ideas and doing some Google searching about things that affect our brains, when I happened upon the drug MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine). The more I read about its side effects, the more interested I became in wanting to understand the chemicals in the drugs and how the brain reacts to them.

This summer, I also started volunteering at my local library and have been helping to teach coding classes for elementary and middle-school students. I enjoy helping kids code because it is something I personally enjoy doing and I also like teaching.

I also recently started dual-enrollment classes at a technical college. I’m taking Composition and Rhetoric 1, and Introduction to Computers. I really enjoy dual enrollment because it gives me a chance to see what college will be like before I actually attend.

Do you have any woman of color in STEM sheros? Who and why?

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca collects bacteria to grow in a test tube as part of an experiment she was conducting at the Biologue Laboratorium in Atlanta, GA.

I consider Ms. Gladys Bolding a shero because she inspired me to get more involved in science, specifically biology. She is an amazing teacher and a great role model to children and adults. I met Ms. Gladys at a STEM event at my local recreation center. She noticed how advanced I was and became my mentor. We meet on Saturdays at the Biologue Laboratorium where she has classes available for different age groups. In each class, we learn college-level lab techniques and etiquette. Being part of Biolouge Laboratorium is amazing because it helps me express my love for biology.

My robotics coach Ms. Akili Allah is also one of my STEM sheroes. She is an amazing person! I appreciate all the things she does for my team and how successful our team is because of her; she always pushes us to do our best. Ms. Akili works hard and is a strong woman who is an amazing role model.

Who do you consider to be your support system?

I consider my friends and family my support system.

Whenever I get an opportunity in STEM, my family is always encouraging me to take it. Once when I was struggling in math, my parents told me to keep trying and to not give up, and eventually I did get better in math with time and practice. They are always pushing me to do my best.

My friends support me by letting me know how great I do, and telling me to keep up the good work.

Ms. Gladys also supports me by exposing me to great opportunities that I may not otherwise be afforded.

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca (seventh from the left; grayish-blue top; burgundy pants; nude flats) poses with the other members of EVE.

Are there institutions, groups or organizations you would like to give a shoutout?

I would like to give a shout out to Biologue Laboratorium and Ms. Gladys Bolding for teaching me more about Biology and fueling my passion for it.

I have been involved with Biologue Labratorium since the beginning. I used to attend the Biologue STEM adventures as a part of the Atlanta Science Festival, which Ms. Gladys was part of. Then she created the Biolouge Labratorium, and my siblings and I were some of the first people to attend classes there.

Why do you think it’s important to highlight girls of color in STEM?

It is important to highlight girls of color in STEM because we are hardly ever recognized for the things we accomplish in STEM. Highlighting us increases our visibility in spaces where we might be otherwise hidden.

I also think it’s important to highlight women of color in STEM. I didn’t really grow up consistently hearing about them, and that fuels my desire to see them highlighted so that in the future, girls will know we are represented in STEM.

What else are you passionate about?

I started to like coding and robotics after I took a class at my library. I enjoyed making commands so the objects could move, but I am also very passionate about biology — I have always had a love for it. When I was little, anatomy was my favorite subject. I loved learning about the different organs, how our bones work, and how they can all be affected by disease. I also enjoyed making model joints. I love learning about the human body.

#WCWinSTEM: Mecca Robinson-Jahi
Mecca hopes to become a biotechnology engineer having found that the profession couples her two STEM interests.

What’s one piece of advice you have for other girls of color in STEM?

Be confident and don’t let anybody put you down. And use your obstacles as fuel for your ambition!

What is your dream career?

My dream career is to be a biotechnology engineer or software engineer. Since I love biology and technology, being a biotechnology engineer would be a very good choice because it marries the two career fields. I was introduced to the career originally by my mother who was looking up different career paths that combined my interests. After that, I took it upon myself to research the field further and fell in love with the idea of it.

You can see what Mecca’s robotics team is up to on Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you Mecca for sharing your passions with us and with the world. Welcome to the #VSVillage!

If you enjoy our weekly #WCWinSTEM features, consider donating to our parent not-for-profit, The SeRCH Foundation, Inc., to help support this work.

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