Crystal Student Wins National Robotics Competition: Natalie Brewster

By Sarina D. ’19 

It’s a Friday night at 11pm and just as most kids are hanging out with friends or settling down on the couch to start a new episode of their favorite show, Natalie Brewster ‘19 is putting the finishing touches on the newest Space Cookies robot- a design she thinks is the best one they’ve built yet. Picking up her half-full cup of boba, the skilled captain of over 100 girls from around the Bay Area leads her team into action. “We’ve got to talk to three more donors tonight,” she tells the group. “And the chairman’s team needs to practice one more time.” She claps her hands and the group disperses, shuffling around their home in the NASA building, eagerly chatting about plans for the upcoming competition, and delving into their respective jobs as programmers, testers, designers, and thinkers.

This has been Natalie’s every weekend since she started Space Cookies in her sophomore year. Space Cookies is a robotics team that designs, builds, and programs innovative robots with guidance from incredible mentors. Partnered with the NASA Ames Research Center and the Girl Scouts of Northern California, the group of girls that gathers throughout the week to work on their yearly task learn skills such as teamwork, perseverance, communication, collaboration, project management, and critical thinking. And Crystal’s own Natalie Brewster stands at the forefront of it all as the captain who represents business endeavors. As the business captain, Natalie writes grants for corporate companies ranging from Nvidia to Qualcomm, asks for donations, and oversees the applied welding group.

“It’s pretty much like running a nonprofit,” she told us. ““We file for corporate grants, but all of the money goes back into our local community. A large portion of our budget is dedicated to getting elementary and middle school kids in east palo also interested in STEM.”

Natalie is also responsible for several organizational tasks to ensure that the large team is running smoothly. This year, she also serves as a coach for the Chairman’s team- a group of three girls in charge of presenting to the judges at competitions. Natalie herself served on the Chairman’s team for two years before she became a captain, and looks fondly upon her opportunities to practice public speaking.

But getting to create a robot from scratch and run a team of nearly a 100 girls from around the Bay Area takes time. Natalie spends about 10 hours a week at lab, coordinating with sponsors, handling the team budget, and working with her teammates on the robot. On most weekends, she is working at NASA, which is nearly an hour from her house, from 9am-10pm, leaving her with a pile of homework for midnight onwards. But she does it because she loves it. “Robotics is something that I truly cannot imagine my life without,” she told Gryphon Gazette. “It’s who I am.”

And all that hard work has definitely paid off. On the weekend of March 16th, Space Cookies competed in the Los Angeles Northern Competition, and took home 1st place in the regional competition, as well as a special Chairman’s award for their presentation team. “Knowing that you’re work has been recognized after years of hard work on top of being able to celebrate with your team- it’s an amazing feeling,” Natalie explained. The group’s victory means that they will be competing in the World Championship later this season, where they will be competing against more than 400 other robots from Australia to Canada. Robotics has allowed Natalie to combine her creativity, love of technology and design, and passion for public speaking into one, and continues to fuel her to innovate and think more. And we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!

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