A group of local Girl Scouts are on the brink of losing their home just as they gear up to compete for a world championship.
“Our move out date is June 1,” said Erin McCullough, 17, one of the founding members of the Tin Mints -- a Girl Scouts Patrol focused on a shared interest in Robotics. “We are being kicked out and the [Granite Run Mall] is being demolished.”
The Ridley High School junior, along with nearly 40 other girls from Delaware and Chester counties, spend hours after school tinkering with metal rails, motors, wheels and computer hardware in a nearly 5,000-square-foot empty store in the shopping center.
“We are marrying the relationship between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and girl scouts,” she said.
Seven teams now make up the Tin Mints -- three for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, three for 4th through 8th grade girls and the sole high school team. The girls raise money year-round to cover $45,000 in annual expenses. The money pays for utilities at the donated space – about $8,000 a year, tools and technology, team uniforms, travel expenses and registration fees – some that cost more than $15,000.
Cookie sales help. And the team also gets donations for "flocking."
“Someone pays us to put a bunch of pink flamingo lawn ornaments on your lawn in the middle of the night and then when you wake up you see this happy surprise,” said Erin, who added the team has also turned to online fundraising.
Despite the monetary concerns, Erin and her nine teammates were not distracted from their goal of developing and building a championship level robot, which they named Rosie III in honorof Rosie the Riveter.
“We did some nights at the mall where we had three mentors and five or six kids overnight where they just took an hour nap in that final week,” explained Erin’s dad, Joe McCullough, who coaches the team. “You are really working under real world challenges of engineering – time constraints, financial constraints.”
The Tin Mints were partnered with two “alliance” teams for the Queen City Regional match in Cincinnati earlier this month. The trio used their robots to stack six totes and then top the tower with a recycling can.
“This year’s game is entirely about teamwork and we really pushed that,” Erin explained.
With their partners, the Girl Scout Patrol earned the highest score. “It was like the Super Bowl… unbelievable excitement. The ones that were not involved in the match rushed the field,” Joe said. “It is that energy, that adrenaline -- it is still there even if it is a robot.”
Now they are taking Rosie to St. Louis for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship in St.Louis, where 17,000 youngsters from around the U.S., as well as Mexico, Canada, England, China, Japan and Israel, face off.
The Tin Mints have raised the necessary funds to travel and compete in St.Louis, but the father-daughter duo is focused on making sure the team has a space and enough money to sustain the team long-term.
“When we are back in town, the plan at that point is to hit the streets to see if anyone has any space to offer us,” Joe said.
“I started it and I want to keep it going,” Erin added. “They are my girls.”