Talking to one of the teams I started and mentored One of the teams I mentored competing
My volunteer work with robotics began my sophomore year in high school, when we mentored a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team. FLL teams are given a game challenge and a theme, and they have 3 months to design, build, and program a Lego Mindstorms robot to complete the challenge, and do a reserach project on the theme. My junior year, we continued to mentor that team, as well as began running the local FLL competition. My senior year, we started a project to start more FLL teams. I gave presentations to principals, parents, and interested kids. That year, we mentored 3 FLL teams, 2 of them newly started, and organizing and running the FLL competition from start to finish. I truly loved mentoring the FLL teams, where we went each week to help them. I loved being able to teach the kids, inspire them, and watch them learn and succeed.
One of the girls programming the robot One of the kids being interviewed about the robot
When I came to college, I knew I would miss it, so I was thrilled to become part of a small group called Robotica dedicated to teaching middle school robotics with the intent of starting FLL teams. We work through Citizen Schools, which is an after-school program for disadvantaged middle school kids, where we go once a week and teach Lego robotics. They run on 10-week semesters, so I have taught for 3 semesters. In the fall of 2010, we had 2 FLL teams, and getting to take them through the season and to competition was one of the highlights of the year for me because I knew that we were giving them an opportunity they would never otherwise have, and they rose to the challenge amazingly.
Teams practicing in the pits The competition room
I am now the president of this group, and I hope to expand what we can do and how many kids we can reach. In the fall of 2011, I partnered with Dr. Mark Schar to coach two FLL teams at another middle school. In my efforts to expand what Robotica does, we hosted a 12-team FLL competition here at Stanford. Being the tournament director was a new challenge for me, but with the help of my family and friends, the competition went completely smoothly and was a huge success!
I have also volunteered at many competitions, both FLL and FRC (see list below). When my team was running the FLL competitions, I was in charge of queuing and inspection, and I have now been a referee for two years. I was also a volunteer at an FRC regional, where I was doing scoring and field reset. I plan to continue volunteering at both levels as much as I can, both by mentoring teams and volunteering at competitions. I truly believe in the values of FIRST, and I will do whatever I can to spread them and keep them alive.