[PODCAST] Breaking Boundaries with the Halo Queens

Episode 17 of our podcast, Take Flight, is out! Discover the incredible Halo Queens and their journey to Norway in this episode.


Our latest episode of Take Flight is out! In this episode, we shine a spotlight on The Halo Queens, an all-girls robotics team from Garsfontein High School in Pretoria.

At Spitfire Inbound, we believe in nurturing the potential of our youth and supporting innovative ideas that pave the way for Eureka moments. This year, we were proud to have sponsored the Halo Queens, who competed in the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) Open European Championship in Bodø, Norway. Their dedication to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is inspiring and we were excited to talk to the team. 

In our latest episode of Take Flight, we sat down with one coach and two members of the Halo Queens. They shared their remarkable journey to the championship, detailing the obstacles they faced and the victories they achieved along their path.

The Halo Queens Journey

This inspiring team consists of four 14-year-old girls who are passionate about STEM. Their goal goes beyond just competing in robotics. Currently, they are working on creating a website about Robotics in South Africa focused on:

  • Parents and Teachers: Offering guidance on how to get started with robotics.
  • School Listings: Providing a list of schools with robotics programs.
  • Equipment Donations: Helping schools obtain the necessary robotics equipment.
  • Coach Training: Informing about training opportunities for new coaches.
  • Networking: Connecting experienced coaches with newcomers to share knowledge and support.

Ultimately, they’re goal is to build a supportive community for robotics education in South Africa.

“Because we helped at various events where we realised that there is not a lot of robotics in South Africa. So for our project, we decided to build a website where people can access the resources.”- Kyla Dorey.

Representing South Africa in Norway

In May this year, the Halo Queens had the honour of representing South Africa at the FLL European Open in Bodø, Norway. Their journey to this international stage started with local competitions. They shot the lights out by winning first place at the regional level and securing second place nationally. And, their exceptional performance and unwavering spirit were recognised with the prestigious Motivate Award – a first for any team from Garsfontein High School at the international level.

Central to the Halo Queens' success in Norway were their two innovative robots: Eve and Sarah. Crafted using LEGO Education Spike Prime, these robots showcased the team's creativity and technical prowess.

Together, Eve and Sarah were crucial in navigating the complex challenges of the FLL competition, showcasing the Halo Queens' problem-solving skills and teamwork.

“Something that I realised through the years is that it's not about making the cool-looking robot, it has to be more functional. So, when we started building the robots, we had a few main goals in mind with it. And it was to keep it small and stable and to make it useful and practical.” Kyla Dorey.

We recognise the profound impact that STEM education can have, and we believe that providing young people with the resources and opportunities to engage in these fields is essential. Our sponsorship contribution to The Halo Queens signifies our commitment to empowering the next generation to reach their potential and become innovation leaders.

 Listen to Episode 17 in full here:


What did you think of Episode 16? Do you have any comments or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you.  Click below to contact us.

Learn more about our podcast here, or subscribe and listen to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

Full Transcript:

Motso: (00:00)

Do better.

Chaz: (00:01)

Be better. Welcome to the Spitfire podcast, Take Flight. We're super pumped for today's episode. We've got something really special lined up for you.

Motso: (00:11)

That's right, today we're diving deep into the world of robotics with an incredible team that's breaking barriers and setting records. We are talking about the Halo Queens, the first-ever all-girls team from Garsfontein High School High School to compete in the First Lego League.

Chaz: (00:29)

These girls are not just participants, they're champions. They ended up first at regionals and clinched second place at nationals. Now they've just come home from representing South Africa at the First Lego League Open European Championships in Norway, where they were awarded the Motivate Award, the first award taken home by a team from Garsfontein at the internationals.

Motso: (00:54)

We'll be chatting with one of their inspiring coaches and two of the girls about their experiences and the story behind their success.

Chaz: (01:04)

So get ready to be inspired by the future engineers and innovators, the Halo Queens. And welcome. We've got Angelica Humphreys and Kyla Dory, both in grade nine from Garsfontein, as well as their teacher, Hestien Le Grange. Welcome guys.

Kyla: (01:25)

Thank you.

Chaz: (01:26)

Thank you so much for having us.

Motso: (01:29)

Awesome. So let's dive right into it guys. So tell us about the Halo Queens. How did the team come together and what inspired you to join the First Lego League?

Kyla: (01:39)

Basically, me, Angelica, and Zante, and <inaudible> all came to Hoërskool Garsfontein at the beginning of last year, and then all of us signed up for robotics and went to practice then we got a teacher who divided us into groups and eventually we all ended up in the same group. So yeah, that's where I think all of us met and the team originally started.

Chaz: (02:08)

Oh my gosh, destiny! And I mean, I was saying to them earlier before we started recording, it's so, so cool that you guys are the first ever girls team to compete in the robotics competition, of course from Garsfontein. How does this milestone impact your team? Obviously, you met in grade eight, but you guys have been in grade nine and now being able to compete in this robotics competition, what does that mean for your team?

Kyla: (02:36)

It was really nice to think that we're sort of going to be setting an example.

Chaz: (02:41)


Kyla: (02:42)

For future girls to show them that not only boys can do robotics.

Chaz: (02:48)

I love that. And like that's, I mean, going into the competition or just being there in general for your team and you guys joining in grade eight like that is such a massive milestone. And you're going to be able to like roll that through your schooling career as well.

Motso: (02:58)

Yeah, that's very inspiring.

Chaz: (03:07)

How do you balance your time between school, robotics and other activities?

Kyla: (03:12)

I play hockey, and I have piano lessons, and a few other things. But I think to just allocate your time like if you have to study, I had to make sure I knew what I had to do beforehand and also just make sure your activities don't fall in the same space. So I had to do a lot of planning to make sure my time was allocated right and to manage it correctly so I could still get to everything I had to do. So yeah, planning was a really good thing that helped a lot also.

Hestien Le Grange: (04:00)

Just to add onto what Kyla said from a teacher's point of view, there's an important sentence that goes with the First Lego League and it says teamwork makes the dream work. And I could really say with the girls, where if one of the girls had a difficult week in regards to extracurricular activities, the other girls will pick up the slack and the team, you know, usually with teamwork there's only maybe one person that does all the work and the others just go along for the ride. But with the girls, I think that's what makes them so exceptional. Each member of the team did something so there wasn't a specific builder and a specific coder in the team. Everybody built the robots, everybody worked on the coding, and everybody worked together on the website. So yeah, I think they complimented each other well.

Motso: (05:11)

So what was the theme for this year's FLL challenge and how did your team approach it?

Kyla: (05:17)

Basically, the theme this year was what you call <inaudible> on a project. We had to do something to help our hobby spread out easier to do in our community. So we all talked for a very long time and did a lot of brainstorming and eventually, we came down to the concept that we all do robotics and that we want to share robotics in our community, because we helped at various events where we realised that there is not a lot of robotics in South Africa. So for our project, we decided to build a website where people can access the resources.

Chaz: (05:59)

Okay. So while you were gearing up for the First Lego League, you were working on the a research project. Is that what you like? That was part of the part of the theme?

Kyla: (06:11)


Chaz: (06:13)

And what real-world problem did you realise or like experience while you guys were doing your research for this project?

Angelica: (06:20)

Many people in South Africa don't have the resources and equipment to do robotics and also a lot of people just don't know what robotics is.

Chaz: (06:34)

And how did you identify that lack of robotics education in South Africa?

Angelica: (06:40)

So we helped at this thing called <inaudible> and we had a whole board and things and we were like working a bit on the robot and talking to people and showing them what robotics is, and a lot of them didn't know what it was. Only like three people actually knew what it was, if I'm being honest. Also, with one of our sponsors, CBI, we met them through a school where we started teaching robotics because they didn't have the resources.

Motso: (07:18)

Tell us what motivated you to create a website to address this issue.

Chaz: (07:23)

Yeah. How did you get to that thinking?

Kyla: (07:27)

You know, as I said, we all just brainstormed the ideas and came to the idea of robotics and then we saw this issue. I think there are a lot of other things you can do, but we wanted to do something that's going to be like, we can carry it forward through the years. And I think at that moment, we just thought the website might be the easiest to do that.

Angelica: (07:58)

And also, there was nothing like that in South Africa, so it was also innovative.

Motso: (08:06)

Yeah, so true. And so tell us why do you think that robotics education is so important, especially for young girls in South Africa.

Chaz: (08:16)

I'd love to hear from Hestien, just being a teacher as well, especially from an education point of view.

Hestien Le Grange: (08:25)

From an education point of view, robotics, oh, it's amazing. That's why I get excited when I just think about the girl's project and the impact that it can have shortly. So with robotics, it promotes out-of-the-box thinking. Sometimes in our daily lives, we really just focus on what we are busy with now, and we forget to see the broader picture. So robotics really opens up thinking outside of the box, that aha moment that you have. So yeah, it's amazing.

Chaz: (09:09)

We call those aha moments, eureka moments here at Spitfire, and yeah, that out-of-the-box thinking, I feel like, I mean when I was in school, I turned 30 this year, so that was a while ago. But that wasn't a thing at all. And I think the fact that you guys, obviously young learners and then especially girls as you mentioned earlier, it's really, really cool to see. And I understand the excitement behind it for sure.

Hestien Le Grange: (09:42)

Another thing that I feel, especially in education, I see in my classroom as well, is problem problem-solving skills. As a teacher, in a subject, you can only teach so much, but you can equip the learners to have skills to find a problem or get a problem, and then to think how can you solve it. Because your teacher won't always be there to help you to solve a problem. I mean, we are sending the kids out in the real world, and you spoke about real-world problems. So it really equips them to really think about the problem and really think how it'll impact your life. How you can use it not only in your own life but as well as to have a positive impact on others.

Chaz: (10:29)

Yeah. I love that inspiration. I also think that you guys then nailed that when it came to creating that website. Because like, it's not just this competition that's going to have that lasting impact. And it doesn't just stop there.

Hestien Le Grange: (10:50)

That's what's so amazing about the girls' project. It's not just a project and now they're done with it, it's like any other school project, you know, you do it, you get the marks, and you move on to the next grade, or you're done with school and you move on. Their project really has the potential to have an impact on many schools in our country. So yeah, it's just amazing.

Chaz: (11:18)

I've seen a little bit of it and it is great. Well, I'm a big fan. I know I've been saying this, but I want to bring it back and I want to speak about your experience at the actual post-Lego League open. It was the European Championships. They went all the way to Norway. I saw them with their South African flags. They were out there doing the most. And I want to hear from you girls, tell us about the experience. I want to hear everything.

Angelica: (11:52)

I must say it was really fun and just completely different from South Africa. Like even the small things you would be like, oh wow, that's so weird. And then they're like, but it's just like that.

Kyla: (12:09)


Chaz: (12:10)

Was it one of your traveling experiences?

Angelica: (12:15)

Yeah, I think so. Well, for me, it was my second time overseas, but for the other three, it was their first time overseas.

Kyla: (12:24)

Yeah. It was really cool to travel so far from your home country.

Angelica: (12:32)

The flying part wasn't very cool though. Other than that, everything was cool.

Chaz: (12:39)

Like flying to another country and representing your country. And an all-girls team and you're only in grade nine. That's crazy, wow.

Motso: (12:49)

So you guys really represented us very well. So, okay, let's bring it back. So can you share some details basically about the robots that you guys have built? We know you have Sarah and Eve. Tell us about the missions that they need to accomplish.

Kyla: (13:11)

Okay. So basically, I've been doing FLL for a while now and something that I realised through the years is that it's not about making the cool looking robot, it has to be more functional. So, when we started building the robots, we had a few main goals in mind with it. And it was to keep it small and stable and to make it useful and practical and not like good looking, but it can't really do anything. So, we started with a low base and then added two motors attached to large wheels, because they don't slip as much. And then we just added on from there. We usually pick the side, well at the start we picked the side of the board and then started building attachments and coding the robot for that side. And then moved on to the next missions. And as we went on, the robot just evolved. So, yeah.

Chaz: (14:21)

That was for Eve and Sarah?

Angelica: (14:24)


Kyla: (14:25)

It's a funny story actually. We started with Sarah and there was another team with the same robot, with all the same Legos and the hub and everything. And then they kind of just switched robotics for a while and started using, I think they used the different robots after a while and, yeah. Then we just took that one and before Nationals we had decided that we needed another robot so we could work simultaneously on both sides of the board. Then we just built a duplicate and she was named Evie.

Chaz: (15:09)

That's unreal. And tell us more about those missions that they needed to accomplish.

Angelica: (15:23)

So with my run, we had six or five different runs where she would do a couple of missions. My run was the longest. So there's this thing called the craft creator where you had to like push a lever thing in. And then on the other side you had to pick up like a roofing, if you understand what I mean. And then there was this one called light speakers theatre scene change where you would push a thing in and it would like turn the singer because it was like a stage thing and you had to pick up a lever and like put it down on the other side, so the speakers could turn around. Also, we had two parallel arms on our robot, which put the lights on the top and brought them down.

Motso: (16:38)


Hestien: (16:41)

And then they performed.

Angelica: (16:42)

Yeah, Kyla did some of the other ones.

Kyla: (16:47)

Yeah. So I also had a pretty long run. So, basically, there's this mission called beauty scene. And basically what the robot did is drive to the platform thing. And then there's this lever you press down and it rotates and there were different colours. So you get different amounts of points for each colour. And then you get even more points if the team is on the other side of the board. So two boards were put together and if they also had the same colour, then you get more points. So we drove to the thing and we had this block of Lego that was curved. So we drive up to it and then it basically just glides and pushes it down. Then we used a technique called squaring against the wall. And then we would drive straight over to another mission where we had this attachment called the tail. And basically, the purpose of it is to push this platform down, but we didn't want to use the lever because that would be more effort. And we didn't have a lot, you only have two and a half minutes to complete a certain amount of missions. So yeah, we basically just pushed it down with the tail, which is just a beam of Lego. And then we proceeded to complete another mission. Just had to also flip the sleeve around and the flower would open and then it would swing around and the flower would open up and there would be a person standing inside. And yeah, basically from there it just goes back and Angelica starts with her run.

Chaz: (18:37)

Hestien, I want to know, did you have a favourite run that you were watching? Were there nerves of steel happening? Because it sounds like the different team members were in charge of different runs in those missions.

Kyla: (18:54)

There were, but I must say me and my friend's favourites, was actually my run because it would work like 90% of the time. And there's only one thing that wouldn't work sometimes, but other than that it would work perfectly every time.

Chaz: (19:14)

And Hestien, as the teacher watching, what was your your favourite mission?

Hestien Le Grange: (19:20)

I think I was too nervous. The girls, I really love all the missions that they do. Some of them I like less because they don't always work the way you want them to work, but I was just busy. It doesn't matter which mission they were busy with, I was just busy cheering on Sarah, you know, let's go Sarah, let's go . That was the vibe that was going through my head.

Angelica: (19:49)


Chaz: (19:50)

I love it, so what are some of the biggest challenges that your team faced during these competitions?

Angelica: (19:54)

I must say one of the biggest, biggest problems was because all of us were spending so much time with each other. If it was regionals or nationals, we were like spending hours together. Even with internationals, we would all sleep in the same room, eat together. So we didn't really get a break from each other. And it was a bit difficult to not get annoyed at each other and just like get irritated with everyone. But I must say we did keep with it quite well. If someone had a problem, we would talk about it and make sure we don't do it again and we make it better.

Kyla: (20:33)


Chaz: (20:33)

Like, don't bring it into your game. I mean, you know. Also, it's a very important competition, you know, and you're also across the world like that makes sense. And being able to keep calm and talk it out so that it doesn't affect your game, that's commendable. Kyla, do you agree? Was that also one of your biggest challenges?

Kyla: (21:00)

Yeah, I think that was one of our biggest challenges, in terms of each other. We also had some problems with the robots, but yeah, that was the least of our issues where we went. But yeah, I think with the robot, the only thing, and on the project, is that we had issues with the platform it was on and we had to fix it within a few months before we went. So there was a lot of pressure and practice to finish the website. But other than that, yeah, I think that was probably one of our biggest challenges before we went.

Chaz: (21:39)

Couldn't have been that much of a challenge though, because they were winning things.

Motso: (21:43)

Okay. So do you guys want to tell us more about the Motivate Award that you guys won?

Kyla: (21:49)

Yeah. So what it consists of is that we would always, like, in my words, I would say like bring the vibe. We're always enthusiastic, loud, very loud. And we were also just like always friendly to everyone and would say hi to everyone if we did see them like on the streets and that. And we were like making friends with everyone and talking to people. I think the award is all about expressing the core values. And in Afrikaans we talk about <inaudible> Just focusing on being nice to everybody and like yeah. Bringing the vibe I guess. .

Hestien Le Grange: (22:54)

I completely agree with you, Kyla. I mean, one of the challenges for me with this trip was just to keep up with you guys' energy, that was the challenge. So, they brought the gees, they brought the energy. Usually with the competition, it's hard work and it's a lot of hours and you really, it takes up a lot of your energy 'cause you have to really have all, and you have to talk to the other teams. So, usually by day two, day three, you know, the energy, it takes a dip. And with the girls, it did not dip, it did not go down.

Angelica: (23:44)

Just that, I would say the only thing that went down was that I would be sitting on the floor sometimes because of how sore my feet were from standing the entire day.

Hestien Le Grange: (23:54)

And you're forgetting the karaoke vibes.

Angelica: (23:59)

Yeah, that was fun.

Hestien Le Grange: (24:01)

So the team next to our pit area, they were from Italy, and they had like a karaoke machine set up. So we were like dancing and singing with the karaoke. So yeah, that's why our feet were so sore.

Kyla: (24:19)

I feel like we got more excited as time went on because we kept on, like every night we were more excited and we kind of like slept late.

Hestien Le Grange: (24:31)

And we were so psyched to never see Norway go dark. We never saw the sun go down. We tried to stay up for the sunset but that's as far as it went.

Chaz: (24:42)

Yeah, sure. That European sunset.

Hestien Le Grange: (24:45)

Yeah, it's beautiful.

Chaz: (24:47)

In Africa, when it goes dark, it's like half past six, seven already.

Motso: (24:50)

Can you guys tell us about the most fun or the most memorable moments for the Halo Queens so far?

Chaz: (24:56)

Yeah, of course, it was like the karaoke and Norway, and sunsets.

Angelica: (25:02)

I think I know what's the most memorable for all three of us. So we were there on their national day and we went for a walk, like in the night to go see the sunset. It was me, Kyla, my teacher and Zante, Ani was a bit tired so she stayed at the hotel. But like when we were walking, usually everybody's like so quiet and so preserved and doesn't talk to anyone. Now everybody was saying hello, screaming and dancing and having fun, and we were like, okay. It was just seeing how the people were interacting with us. It was so funny.

Kyla: (25:41)

Yeah. I just wanted to say that I feel like another really important memory for us would just be when we were at the prize-giving ceremony and we were standing there and we were like, we're not gonna win a prize. It was fun coming, you know, it's a good experience. And then they were talking about the Motivation Award and I remember all of us were looking at the screen and we were standing behind this team and our picture came on the board and that was the first thing I saw. And like I turned to Angelica and we were like, yeah. And then we ran up to the stage. I think that definitely...

Angelica: (26:19)

Also, another thing, what was really fun for me was, so they had like a team party thing where all of the teams went to a place and they played music and even had a live band and you could just dance and they even gave us like glow in the dark sticks and face paint and it was just so fun.

Chaz: (26:42)

I love that. So I'm glad you guys made so many memories. I mean making South Africa and Garsfontein very proud, bringing the fierce, bringing the energy. And then being able to, I mean like see your robots that you were working so hard on, and performed, and enjoyed those missions with each other. Like even me, I want to go to Norway, when's the next FLL? Are you guys planning on going back next year? What are your plans?

Kyla: (27:11)

So as you might know, Angelica lives in <inaudible> now. So, it's pretty hard to have the team so far away, like team members. And then Swanee, one of our other team members, is also moving to another province, in I think a little bit less than two weeks. So it's going to be hard to keep the team, but me and Charne will be doing a last season of FLL and Charne is going to go help. She's moving to Rustenburg, and there she's going to go help start robotics, so yeah.

Chaz: (27:53)

You just going to go and sprinkle your robotics skills and knowledge all over the country. And with that being said, what advice would you give to other young girls who are interested in robotics and technology? Who are maybe a little bit hesitant to get involved.

Angelica: (28:10)

I would say go for it. Try it and see if you like it because you probably will and it's such a fun experience and it's a really good thing to like know because there's a lot of things nowadays, coding is coming in. And like, if you get invited to international, that's amazing And it's such a great experience and yeah.

Motso: (28:37)

So tell us then, what message would you like to share with your supporters and the broader community?

Kyla: (28:43)

I think yeah, go for it. Whatever your goals are, work hard for it, put in the hours, and do it because it's going to be worth it in the end. We're living proof of that.

Hestien Le Grange: (28:57)

I want to add onto that, a simple three-letter word. Try. Just try it. I see with the kids, they associate robotics with the coding in IT, you know, Delphi, Java, C++, and they think, oh difficult, I won't be able to do it. But if you don't try you will never know. And to be honest, you're missing out.

Chaz: (29:31)

That's awesome guys. Our last question is how can listeners contribute to your journey and support the Halo Queens, but of course, we have discussed how the team is dispersing. But is there anything with your website, or with the schools that you were involved in, that people can contribute to?

Kyla: (29:56)

I think something we should mention there, I think if people have any old robotics sets lying around that they're not planning to use in the future, to go to our page maybe and donate them so people who don't have the privilege to access robotics sets can also get access and start doing robotics.

Chaz: (30:21)

So you must drop your old robot off hey.

Hestien Le Grange: (30:26)

And also if you would like any help, these girls are also passionate about helping other schools to start robotics. So we usually do play dates with our robots. So we organise play dates with other schools. They come to us or we'll go to them and then we take a few kids and we chat with the coaches and we teach them a few skills. So if you're interested in collaborating with us, I can give you our email address. It's <inaudible>,  so they could just send us an email and then yeah, we can organise a play date.

Chaz: (31:09)

Organising play dates. We will definitely put that email address in the details connected to this post. And I just want to say I'm so inspired. Please check out the girls' social platforms. It's @HaloQueens. And I'm really excited, even though as a team you guys won't necessarily be going on, I'm really excited to see the continued impact, and especially the inspiration that you are bringing, as all girls, girl power, all those gees. Yeah, I'm really excited to see what you guys do. You are the future of our country and I am feeling pretty confident. Amazing guys. And thank you so much for joining us. Yeah, it was really awesome to have you here.

Kyla: (32:12)

Thank you for having us. It was really nice.

Hestien Le Grange: (32:16)

Yeah, thank you for having us. It was an honour to talk to you and to meet you.

Kyla: (32:20)

Really fun.

Chaz: (32:22)

Awesome. So, as we mentioned, check out our blog post connected to this episode. It's Spitfireinbound.com. We'd love for you to like, follow and subscribe to our podcast and for you to leave us a review. If you like this episode, remember to tag us on social media on the handle @Spitfireinbound #TakeFlight. We will also have the email address for you to get involved with the Halo Queens. So any of the information you will find at the bottom of this episode. Thanks again and we'll see you soon. Bye bye.

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