September 20, 2017

Our Mentors

     A crucial part to any good Robotics Team is their Mentors. Mentors act as supervisors and guides to all Robotic Team members. On Friday, February the 3rd, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Tackett and Mr. Kohler, two of the many Mentors who contribute a great deal of time and energy to Robotics Team 1807.

    Mr. Tackett has been the advisor of the Robotics Team for two years. He is heavily qualified for this role because he has taught engineering for four years, Physics for approximately twenty years and had previously been involved with a robotics club at his old school. In general, he enjoys being involved in the building process of the robot rather than the Business and Marketing aspect. When asked if the hands-off approach to guiding the team was difficult, he replied with a firm, “No, not at all. It’s a student led group – it’s supposed to be that way. My role is to simply be a guide and help them reach their destination as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

    As a Mentor, his most stressful memory was assuming the role of Advisor last year, which was his first year. His best memory has been the success experienced so far season, and being able to see the team really come together and create new relationships while continuously developing old ones.

“The most rewarding part is watching the kids really take ownership of the team and the design of the robots and seeing the kids be self motivated and driven to accomplish these very difficult tasks,” says Tackett.

    Mr. Tackett believes that the team is “most definitely” going to be successful this year and that the team is much improved from last year. The main difference is the fact that they know for sure that their mechanisms are going to work because they prototyped them during Week One out of foam.

    To any parents considering becoming Mentors, Mr. Tackett says, “If you like working with kids and like to see young people accomplish something that can’t be observed anywhere else, not on the sports field or not in any organization outside of school, then you should become a part of this and watch the great things that kids are doing and the leadership skills that are developing.”

    In summarization, he hopes for the individuals on the team to be able to understand the design process that engineers use and apply that to the design of the robot, along with learning the importance of teamwork in the creation of the robot. He recommends Robotics to any kids looking for real life experience through working with peers, adults and timelines or any kids looking to learn more about software, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Also, any kids interested in business leadership are needed within the club to assemble the business plan, find sponsors, and prepare presentations for the judges.

    Mr. Kohler has been a Mentor for three years and got involved through the help of the Robotic Team’s outreach projects. When his two sons, Jake and Sam, were in elementary school, they attended Science Night Live and his sons spent the whole night fascinated with the Robotics Club presentation. Since that moment, both of his sons knew they wanted to join Robotics. Once they got to high school, they joined the club, which was asking for volunteers and it only made sense for Mr. Kohler volunteer. He has adept knowledge about materials and fabrication, which focuses on how to put things together and the materials that can be put together and the proper ways to put them together. He enjoys helping all the subdivisions, and very much enjoys seeing the robot develop from start to finish. He finds it extremely hard to take the hands-off approach to Mentoring, and usually has restrain himself from saying comments. For instance, last year the team constructed a bearing wrong, but Mr. Kohler was unable to comment and the robot  was finalized and put into competitions as it was. However, Mr Kohler understands that letting the team make mistakes allows them to learn more effectively and efficiently.

    As a mentor, the most stressful memories come from being at the shop until midnight only nights before the first competition. However, his best memory overall was when they got picked to be in an alliance with one of the top eight teams last year. “It just validated all their work,” he explained. For him, the most rewarding part about mentoring is watching their development over the course of years, as they grow from separate individuals into a completely functioning group.

    He “absolutely” believes the team will be successful with their mechanisms this year because of the quality of their design and the amount of time they put into it. They started with a prototype of foam and cardboard and then transformed that into a 3D model for each separate piece through the CAD software and then bought the best materials and then actually started to build the robot. Since the construction was very systematic this year, it betters their chances at achieving success.

    To parents considering becoming a Mentor, Mr Kohler says, “Come give it a chance. There’s something for everyone, even if it’s just to help supervise a group so nobody cuts any parts off. You don’t have to be an engineer or materials expert – it’s just giving some time. Anyone can make a phone call to ask for a donation or anybody can network and say ‘hey, I know a group that can donate this.’ Just come to a couple meetings and find out.”

    Mrs. Kohler, Mr. Kohler’s wife, who sat in on the interview and is a new Mentor as of this year, feels it’s important for parents to know that there is a huge business portion to being a Mentor through assisting the Business and Marketing team with outreach projects, finding sponsors, developing the business plan, and preparing presentations. Also, when it comes to parents becoming Mentors, she said, “It’s important for parents to know that they don’t have to be here every single day. I can only give so much time because I have to work elsewhere after school. When I’m here, I do what I can.”

In conclusion, Mr. Kohler hopes for the team to be able to win this year. Or, at the very least, achieve what they did last year through being asked to join the alliance of a top eight team.

– Article courtesy of Anna Plank