Love Of Robotics Propels Local Student To International Level

Kaitlyn Nolte, a member of G-Force Robotics, works with her mentor Spencer Davis, a Caterpillar engineer, to learn about programming in Java. Nolte codes 125-lb robots for the FIRST Robotics Competitions.

Kaitlyn Nolte might seem soft spoken when you meet her, but get this high school student talking about girls in STEM and you will find a very vocal advocate whose work is being recognized on an international level.

Nolte, a Clayton resident, and a 10th grader at Johnston County Early College Academy, is one of two finalists from North Carolina to advance for consideration for the Dean’s List Award at the FIRST Robotics World Championship held in Houston, Texas, April 19-22, 2023.

Nearly 6,000 students across 3,300 teams are nominated for the Dean’s List Award which recognizes student leaders who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness of FIRST and its mission to promote science, technology, engineering and math. Nominees showcase high levels of personal expertise and accomplishment in their schools and communities.

The pool of nominees is whittled down through a selection process that includes written applications and essays, and in-person interviews ultimately advancing about 200 students to the final level of consideration where only 10 will be chosen as a Dean’s List Winner. Nolte is among the 200 being considered for this award.

Kaitlyn Nolte, a 10th grader at the Johnston County Early College Academy, goes through the FIRST Robotics “high five line” after being named a Dean’s List Award semi-finalist. Nolte won the honor at the state competition and advances to the international level to compete for the honor of being named a Dean’s List Winner.

As one of only a handful of girls in her grade going through JCECA’s STEM program, Nolte knows the importance of advocating for underserved and underrepresented populations to have more access to school and STEM enrichment programs. Her love of robotics started in middle school when she realized she was the only girl in her middle school robotics class.

“I joined an all-girl robotics team called the Techno Tigresses,” said Nolte. “I loved the environment of learning beside other girls who were passionate and interested in robotics. I started coding the robot and I knew this was something I wanted to continue.”

Nolte went from learning simple Scratch-based, block coding on her middle school team, to advancing her programming skills in Java which led her current team to set several records in early competition this season with their autonomous code.

She helped co-found her current high school team, G-Force Robotics, along with two of her middle school teammates. “We have a lot of programs aimed to inspire and encourage young girls to see themselves in STEM fields. I’m really proud of the work we have done to encourage others,” she said. “We’d love to see our community start more teams like this and we’d love to keep directly inspiring younger girls in these areas.”

Kaitlyn Nolte (left) poses for a picture with her G-Force Robotics teammates, Allison Vanater (center) and Shelby Anderson (right) prior to a match a recent robotics competition. Nolte is one of roughly 200 students from 26 countries competing for the FIRST Robotics Championship Dean’s List Winner to be named in Houston, Texas on April 22, 2023

Her passion for robotics doesn’t stop at the local level though as she has advocated for increased STEM funding for schools all the way up to Capitol Hill.

“I plan to continue advocating for STEM education in my community and on a national level because it is really something I am passionate about,” she added. “The FIRST Robotics program changed the course of my life and I want to ensure other students have this opportunity too.”

Dean’s List Winners will be named during the championship event on April 22, 2023.

“I’m honored to represent my school, team and community for this award,” Nolte said. “And maybe It shows younger girls that if you put in the work to become a leader in your community and advocate for what you are passionate about it can lead to great things.”