The rewards of mentoring

Sid Hastings
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Team mentor Marybeth Krull couldn't contain her enthusiasm on the floor at Chaifetz Arena after Bishop DuBourg's match in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC, for short) St. Louis Regional.

"Yeah, that's it!" she said as she high-fived Zion Reece.

"Awesome!" she congratulated Fabian Sanchez.

She repeated the exhortation to Jonathan Williams, then used it often after the trio fetched their robot from the battle arena and carted it back to Bishop DuBourg's pit area.

"This is my first time here," confided the DuBourg learning consultant, so, of course, everything was awesome.

DuBourg teammates and coach Ann Kelly greeted them with smiles and good cheer at their pit, a black canopy with a portable workbench, tools and parts. DuBourg's pit was decorated with sponsors' stickers, artificial flames flickering with miniature fans and a photo of Mythbusters icon Grant Imahara, who mentors an FRC team in Southern California.

Competition is fun, but mentoring is where it's at for DuBourg and other Catholic high schools participating in FRC — not for the mentoring they receive but for the mentoring they give to middle school students throughout the St. Louis area.

DuBourg has joined The Clavius Project, which is in its third year of bringing robotics to middle schools. Clavius started with the St. Louis University High Robobills mentoring nine grade schools in the City of St. Louis. That pilot program has mushroomed in the past two years, with robotics teams from DuBourg, Rosati-Kain, De Smet Jesuit, Cor Jesu and Nerinx Hall mentoring 27 middle schools.

Mentoring is most rewarding for the robot builders, programmers and drivers — more so than the competition that took place this year March 10-11 at Chaifetz. Students from DuBourg have worked with students from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta school in Ferguson based on a connection with Kelly.

"You get to help younger kids basically become like you or better than you," sophomore Zion Reece said. "You get to teach about robots and technology; technology is always changing so I think (the teaching) will help them in life."

Reece picked up robotics from his older sister, Amarri, and leans on his knowledge of power tools. He's been working with robotics since he was in fifth grade at De La Salle Middle School. With DuBourg, Reece helps with driving ... and coaching. A coach among peers.

"I'm really good at strategy, like in history I like to study what (generals) did well in every war; it's really awesome," said Reece, who wouldn't mind going into a military academy, being an engineer or teaching math.

Sanchez, just a freshman, enjoys the one-on-one relationships of mentoring.

"It's more interesting; you get to deal with people on a more personal level," he said. "Here, you're just competing. Whenever you're mentoring someone, you can understand the thought process and get to know them better than just competing."

Likewise, team programmer Jacob Lucas, a junior.

"It's not just winning and competition, it's about doing service," he said. "Part of our mission is to go out and do general nice things, but with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, we went and taught them about robots to give them the idea about engineering. A lot of what we do is outreach."

Freshman Robbie Ryan has taken to robots and is among only eight team members at DuBourg, despite having no robotics in grade school at Miriam Academy, which is now a Clavius school. He also keeps busy by playing basketball and baseball, with all of the activity giving him "perspective in my life." 

>> Who was Clavius

Jesuit Christoph Clavius was a mathematician, astronomer and teacher known primarily for his work on the Gregorian calendar, at the behest of Pope Gregory XIII, but also his work with Euclidian Geometry. Born in 1538 in Bamberg, Bavaria, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1555 and studied at University of Coimbra in Portugal before Jesuit superiors summoned him to teach at Roman College. Galileo Galilei was among his contemporaries. After his death at age 73 in 1612, his writings were published in five volumes entitled, "Christophori Clavii e Scoietate Jesu opera mathematica, quinque tomis distributa."

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia and The Galileo Project 

>> The Clavius Project

From a pilot program bringing robotics to nine city grade schools, St. Louis University High School's The Clavius Project now reaches 27 middle schools (with eight on the way this fall) and has been joined as mentors by five high schools — Bishop Dubourg, Rosati-Kain, Cor Jesu, Nerinx Hall and De Smet Jesuit (with more on the way.) Ranken Technical College, the Berges Family Foundation, ITEF and Wells Fargo fund Clavius, which offers scholarships to a summer academy at Ranken and summer robotics camps. SLUH also hosts the annual Robotics Jamboree and will host the FIRST Lego League qualifier in November. For more information about Clavius, email Jeff Pitts at jeffpitts58@gmail.com

>> FRC teams

Ursuline Academy's Bearbotics earned honors as the top rookie team in the St. Louis Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition March 10-11 at Chaifetz Arena and qualified for FIRST Championship Wednesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 29 at Amerca's Center in St. Louis. Seven other teams from Catholic high schools participated at Chaifetz: Barat Academy, Bishop Dubourg, De Smet Jesuit, Nerinx Hall, Rosati-Kain, St. Louis Priory/Visitation Academy and St. Louis University High. 

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