Fort Mill robotics team breaks barriers, build confidence

FORT MILL, SC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – When the balls are in their court, 7th graders Anna Beltakis and Lauryn Ponstein are wired to embrace technology and seize the moment.

“I just try to breathe, I stay in the moment, focus on robotics and nothing else,” Ponstein told Queen City News. “I really like challenging myself, so that’s fun,” Beltakis said.

In May, the dynamic robotics duo fueled by friendship and girl power will VEXIQ Worlds Competition in Dallas, TX against hundreds of other teams. The Fort Mill robotics team goes by the name “Dominating Dalmatians” and their dogged determination helped them win the State VEXIQ Robotics Competition to advance to the Worlds.

“For me it’s just the creativity of it all,” says Ponstein. “Problem-solving is really fun for me… especially doing it with my friend.”

They both go to Springfield Middle School and are part of the Robotics Club at Next Level Kidz.

Robot “Delaney” has an appetite for yellow balls and watching it go is just plain fun as it shoots and scores in a timed setting with the girls calling the shots.

“We’re different while also being similar. So that we both bring perfect viewpoints into our team, ”Beltakis said of the partnership.

“They keep setting new goals and keep achieving those goals and breaking those goals. At this point the sky’s the limit for them, ”coach Phil Ponstein says.

Women are making a lot of gains in many male-dominated career fields. But when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and math— or STEM— there’s still a huge disparity. According to the US Census Bureau, females make up just 27 percent of STEM workers.

Robotics success empowers these girls to pursue STEM careers.

When asked if women were just as capable as boys in those jobs, Anna was supremely confident.

“Uh, yeah! Well just because we’ve been pushed down for so long, ”Anna said, aspiring to a career in engineering.

Lauryn is also interested in a STEM-related career path.

“Definitely someone that either 3D models or builds anything… designs it, troubleshoots,” she explained.

“To bring women into a field that has been predominantly male-driven for so long. It’s pretty cool to see the passion and desire and fire burning inside of these young ladies, ”coach Ponstein said.

And when two besties are determined to be the best, special things happen.

“I’m very competitive so that always makes it exciting,” said Anna.

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