Let’s Code a Robot

MAY 4, 2017

Like many startups, we think the best way to learn is by trying, and failing, and trying again. Failing isn’t fun though—so to encourage our team to stay the course—we made it a value, Think Big—Do Bigger.


We had a bit of a failure last week at the Girlstart STEM Conference. The conference is about getting young girls excited about STEM and STEM careers. In that sense we did okay. But our workshop was called, “Let’s Code a Robot” and that’s where we stumbled. In between the wonky internet connection, being short on resources (my fault!), and the chaos that is 30 people in one room—we only kind of coded some robots. At one point, a robot was coded but it was accidentally connected to all the other robots. Depending on your perspective it was either funny that all the robots were moving “on their own” or it was scary.

But the most interesting thing happened—the girls didn’t disengage from the activity—they asked why. They kept at the problem, made their own suggestions, ran tests, and discussed in their groups what the issues were. They were software engineers for the day.

In my first session, one girl was coding on the computer and I was working to connect the robot to her code. When she pushed the button to run her code—I was peering through my hands I was so nervous – but it worked! She watched the Javascript on the screen and was listing out her commands as the robot did them. (There were lots of disco lights and spins, my kind of girl!) The glimmer in her eye I’ve seen before. Our engineers have the same look after failing, failing, failing, and then click, boom, magic.

Even after all the failure—she didn’t want to sit back, she wanted to code something new, to make more magic! Not even the promise of pizza made her want to get up and leave. That is the kind of gal I want to work with someday. Someone that is enamored with the challenge, that takes failure as another step closer to the solution, but also knows success on one challenge just means time to tackle another. She totally embodied Think Big—Do Bigger.

I hope her + the other girls left with an interest in software engineering. In a nice twist, they left me with something as well. I left humbled, but energized. Their spirits and curiosity reminded me why failing is fun. When our robot ran code after so many tries—it was magic for me as well. Coming into work this week, I have a different kind of challenge but it’s still a puzzle that’s going to require some gumption to fail, fail, fail and then eventually click, boom, magic.

Thank you Girlstart for another great conference. We left inspired and hope we left some inspiration behind. I’m looking forward to chatting with the future software engineers I met in about 15 years.

Ready to be a software engineer now? Send us your resume + a quick note to work@square-root.com. Want to learn more about how you can get involved with Girlstart? Visit their website here.


If you ask her, Courtney is the cheerleader of the company; but really, she’s the glue that keeps Square Root together. She handles a little bit of everything but is especially good at HR and employee relations. Prior to joining Square Root, Courtney spent several years in HR operations at really large companies, so she brings welcome structure to our rapidly expanding team. No matter what she’s working on, Courtney adds a creative touch – keeping employee morale high and company events interesting. She knows just what it takes to pull the best out of people and isn’t above the occasional need for coffee / whiskey / cookie bribery. Courtney has a degree in English with minors in philosophy and history from Texas A&M University.