A show of belief: Local students awarded Ann Bancroft Foundation grants

submitted photos Colibri Lopez-Munoz, above, and Addie Cooper, both on Visitation School’s Robettes FIRST Robotics team, were selected as grant recipients by the Ann Bancroft Foundation. They will use their grant money to help pay team dues this year.

The Ann Bancroft Foundation recently awarded grants to 373 Minnesota girls — two of the lucky recipients attend Visitation School.

Sophomores Colibri Lopez-Munoz and Addie Cooper are using their $500 grants to help them participate in robotics this year.


Unexpected interest 

Lopez-Munoz, 15 of St. Paul, is in her second year on Visitation’s Robettes FIRST Robotics team. For Cooper, who is also 15 and from St. Paul, this is her first year on the team after transferring to Visitation. 

Lopez-Munoz says she got started in robotics after taking part in one of the team’s summer camps before her freshman year. She thought it would be a good way to get to know some people before coming into the school — she says she was the only one from her middle school who would be attending Visitation. 

Before that, Lopez-Munoz says she was never really interested in robotics. However, she felt it was a good opportunity to meet people, learn some new things and try something new.

After the summer camp, Lopez-Munoz says she realized how much she really enjoyed robotics and meeting the people. Joining the team, she says she made a lot of great friends.

Lopez-Munoz says she decided to be on the mechanical team, which involves building the main parts of the robot.

After competing in regionals and championships with the Robettes, she says she had a realization that she really loved what she was doing and wanted to continue doing it.

Cooper says she had been on robotics teams before joining the Visitation team — she notes she “had seen them in action.”

“[The Robettes] just had their act together. They were well coordinated, and I also thought it was super cool that it’s an all-girls team,” says Cooper.

Also on the mechanical subteam, Cooper says before joining robotics, she thought she wanted to go into politics or law. She added that STEM topics — science, technology, engineering and math — weren’t even a “blip on her radar.” 

Seeing women in STEM and getting into those areas of study caused a switch, and now Cooper says it’s what she wants to do with her life.


Representing women in STEM

Lopez-Munoz and Cooper say they heard about the Ann Bancroft Foundation grant from the Robettes’ mentor, Sydney Benz.

Benz says the grant is intended to get girls involved in activities to provide a way to achieve personal growth.

“FIRST Robotics competition is heavily male dominated — from the student participants to the mentors and coaches,” Benz says. “All of our team members do a great job of representing females in STEM, so I shared the grant information with the entire team.”

In their grant applications, Cooper and Lopez-Munoz answered essay questions. A mentor in their lives answered questions about them as well.

Lopez-Munoz says she was happy when she found out she had been selected — “I think I was probably jumping up and down.”

Cooper says it took a while to sink in that she’d been selected.

Both girls will use their $500 to cover the cost of participating in robotics.


It just clicked

Cooper says that coming into Visitation School as a sophomore, she didn’t really know that many people. The robotics team was somewhere she could be taken as she is.

“We’re all a little bit weird, but that makes it better,” she says, adding that she instantly clicked with the group.

As a freshman, Lopez-Munoz says she was very shy and nervous. She says she felt welcomed by the whole team, which she describes as supportive of everyone.

Since joining the team, she says has gained a lot of confidence.

“Now, going back to it, I never really thought of myself as an engineer at all, or very confident or good at public speaking,” Lopez-Munoz says. She’s now thinking about going into bio-medical engineering, which is something that has always interested her.

Both girls say getting the grant has been a confidence booster. Cooper says it’s really encouraging when other people see something in them.


–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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