Mentoring Future Engineers

Genesis Automation employees serve as mentors to FIRST Robotics team PWNAGE #2451. The experiences our mentors provide to high school students changes the trajectory of their lives and opens them up to hands on opportunities they otherwise would never have experienced.

“They see us as future engineers, not kids,” says Batavia High School Senior Ally Bowgren who has been on the FRC PWNAGE traveling team for three years. Danielle Yingst of Batavia High School is a Senior and three year FRC PWNAGE team member. “Mentors give hands on experience. They let us Genesis Automation Engineer Kevin Ainsworth teaching PWNAGE

actually do it. We learn everything they do in the students how to solve real world problems.

real world and our mentors are fun to hang around.”

“I can be an athlete until college and maybe even through college, but then what? I’m not going pro. Here I’m learning to be an engineer. I can be an engineer my whole life.” Ally Bowgren is a High School Senior and is also a three year FRC PWNAGE team member.

Genesis Automation is the premiere sponsor and home of PWNAGE FRC Team #2451 as well as the headquarters of The Youth Robotics and STEM Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. The Foundation’s mission is to support the participation of High School students in national, state and regional programs designed to inspire young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. (Inspiring Youth Through Stem)

Mentor with Bowgren.

Foundation President Tim Caldwell believes that “This is one of the best practical applications of what kids learn in school. This foundation offers every single PWNAGE student a robotic experience that involves big picture application and perspective, there is something for every kid.” PWNAGE Team #2451 members receive personalized mentorship in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by industry professionals.

Caldwell and PWNAGE supporters at regional competition.

FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) announced the 2017 2017 game challenge FIRST® STEAMWORKS® on January 7th. PWNAGE Team #2451 and 3,400 other FRC teams receive a rules and regulations handbook,

and a basic Kickoff Kit which provides a starting point for robot construction. 85,000 high school students from around the world assume responsibility for designing, engineering, programming, wiring, and debugging of their competition robots. Mentors are critical to a team’s success.

Founded in 1989, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) seeks to inspire interest and offer opportunities for science and technology participation for students in kindergarten through high school.

“Based in Manchester, NH, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

FIRST is More Than Robots. FIRST participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21 st century work-life skills.” (FIRST)

“As a team in FIRST, our team is a portal to careers in technology. Being a part of a FIRST team gives us practical knowledge in many useful areas including business, networking, public relations, fundraising, and, of course, engineering. The FIRST program provides an amazing experience that has motivated the majority of our team alumni to major in STEM fields in college. As a team in FIRST, we celebrate STEM through the FIRST Robotics Competitions.” (PWNAGE)

Nearly all PWNAGE team members pursue STEM related majors in college. Saint Charles North H.S. and PWNAGE 2010 graduate Tom Blassick majored in nuclear engineering at University of Illinois and graduated in 2014. He landed his first professional engineering job at Richardson Electronics and returned to PWNAGE as a mentor.

Tom Blassick says that “The challenges given in the FIRST games are problems you’d

encounter in the real world. For example, I was able to run a mill, or lathe, as a high school student. Through that experience, I was able to understand the sequence by which a part is made. I could apply that hands on process experience to the theory I was learning in college because the hands on reality of actually doing something is not taught in college.”

West Aurora Senior and 5-year PWNAGE team member Ballie Caldwell says, “My favorite part of

the whole thing is learning how to coordinate. The mentors help us. I enjoy seeing how the chaos of ideas comes together into one uniform robot. There is a mixing of ideas. My favorite stage is building because you see all the pieces come together and it actually looks like a robot, not parts laying all around.”

Dan Napierkowski, second season PWNAGE member and Senior at Batavia H.S. says his favorite time is at the competition. “It’s not always about the resources of the team, but how they allocate them. Those are the best teams to work with.” Unlike traditional competitions where teams compete and “may the best one win,” First Robotic Competitions (FRC) events involve a complex hierarchy system of competition where teams employ solid strategic planning. In each round of competition, 3 FRC teams form an alliance and compete against 3 other aligned FRC teams. PWNAGE Team #2451 competition robot.

Sometimes a team is your alliance partner, and other times, they’re your competition. It’s a delicate balance, “You don’t want to give away too much, but you don’t want to lose either,” says Dan.

FRC events offer students opportunities to not only meet peers from around the world, but to interact in a meaningful way. Napierkowski says, “I really enjoy talking with kids from other teams from in Israel, Hungary, Canada, and Mexico about strategies. I like figuring out how to combine other teams strategies with ours.” FRC events can be societal incubators. Consider the situation...teens from around the world gather together, conditions for conversation are optimal, and they share a common robotic language. Friendships develop and are maintained on social media well after the events end. Now what began as a simple robotics competition, has become an accessible platform for society’s next generation to have a real grasp of global awareness, cultural appreciation, and acceptance.

FRC Team PWNAGE #2451 includes students and mentors. Winners at 2017 Miami Valley Regional. PWNAGE now qualifies for the FRC World Championships in St. Louis this weekend. (April 26-29)

Genesis Automation owner and 2016 FRC Woodie Flowers Finalist Award Winner Scott Hale says, “Sports are great.

I love watching them, but of the thousands of college athletes who play them, only a few go on to play professional NFL, NBA, or MLB ball, especially if you’re a girl. In robotics there is more opportunity for everyone. Everyone is needed. Everyone is wanted. There are more real opportunities for kids to take the STEM skills that they learn here into the real world and careers. Here the focus is wanting to

learn, to grow, versus wanting to win. Don’t get me

wrong, the competition is fierce, and on game day, Scott leads FRC PWNAGE #2451.

we’re ready. Our mentors work really hard to help

the kids to not only create the best possible robot they

can, but to be the best people they can be.”

PWNAGE Team #2451 team members agree that their mentors are trustworthy and trusting. Knowledgeable. Interactive. Patient. Calm. Wheaton-Warrenville South H.S. Freshman Robert Spayth says, “They talk with you, not at you.”

Glenbard North H.S. Sophomore and second year PWNAGE team member David Ellers wants to be a mechanical or electrical engineer one day, and a mentor, like his dad. “I like that our

mentors joke around. When I talk to kids on other teams, they complain about how serious their mentors are, like all the time. We’re serious when we need to be, but our mentors make it fun. They teach us. Coach us. I know they will be there when I need them, for robotics and for anything else.”

2017 Competition Season Summary

Build Season

Kick-Off - Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bag and Tag/Stop Build Day - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Competition Season

Miami Valley Regional - March 8-11

Wittenburg University, Springfield, OH

Miami Valley Regional Winners

Miami Valley Engineering Excellence Award

Midwest Regional Competition - March 28-30, April 1

UIC Pavillion, Chicago, IL

Midwest Regional Winners

Midwest Engineering Excellence Award

Seven Rivers Regional - April 12-15

Lacross Center, La Crosse, WI

Silver Medalist Winners

SevenRivers Engineering Excellence Award

2017 FIRST Championships - April 26-29

St. Louis, MO

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