by Shahed Saleh, FIRST Team 4903 and Girls in STEM Student Advisory Council Member
As a student in FIRST, a large part of my role as an effective leader and advocate for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is to assist younger students in my community through their own STEM journeys. I was fortunate this year to be a mentor for FIRST LEGO League team 27023, the Glenwood Gears, during their FIRST Into Orbit season.
Upon meeting the students, I was able to witness how their different personalities painted the team in a unique mosaic of experiences and strengths. They were kids that came together to build a robot, dream up a space innovation and present their skill sets, but build season was not unfolding in their favour.
In trying to incorporate every idea they had for their robot mechanism unsuccessfully, they were faced with a harsh reality: rebuild the entire robot in the last two weeks before competition. As a mentor, I advised the Glenwood Gears when they had questions about mechanisms or coding, however, I didn’t want to meddle with their ideas. I had a whisper of a feeling that they could find the way back to the path of completion with some of my guidance and motivational support.
On our last meeting day, I walked into their build room and saw a massive smile plastered on each of their faces; they had finished building and programming the robot together, and it was twice as good as any of their past versions. Was it perfect? No, but it was a beautiful demonstration of the determination and dedication they had towards completing their goal. I realized they didn’t need me as a mentor to evaluate their product or tell them what they should be working on. All they need from a mentor is for someone to believe in them and to motivate them along their journey. They didn’t need me to light their torch of success, all I had to do was give them a spark of motivation.
FIRST LEGO League students all over the world prove their ingenuity in design and creativity every year, but that doesn’t make them different from other kids. Children have such a profoundly sophisticated ability to learn; they gather patterns they see around them and reflect it into their work. Every child—no matter their background or abilities—can achieve a great understanding and passion for their interests, given the catalyst of a mentor that believes in them. The Glenwood Gears brought their colourful imaginations together, learned how to work as a team, and created a robot and project they can be proud of. These elementary schoolers prove to everyone that genius lives in every kid.
Let’s acknowledge all the determined little humans in our lives and give them our unwavering support and belief!
For more information on FIRST LEGO League, visit here.