Mentoring a FIRST Robotics Team

Written By: Colin Shipley

Robots Compete at FIRST Robotics CompetitionWhat inspired you to be an engineer?  For me, it was my involvement in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.  This is a high school-age robotics competition that encourages young minds to explore the areas of robotics and engineering.

While in high school, I was involved in the mechanical design of a robot that could not exceed three feet wide by four feet long and six feet tall.  These robots would weigh over a hundred pounds and compete in a sport-like challenge with one to two other teams.

Because of my participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition, I graduated high school with a strong passion for design and robotics.  This encouraged me to obtain a BS in mechanical engineering and minor in robotics, and now I am a robotics engineer with BMH Robotics in St. Louis.

Becoming a Mentor

I would not be where I am today if I was not inspired by FIRST, so I wanted to give back in any way I could.  The best way I could do that was to become a mentor for a local FIRST Team.  I looked Student Driver and Mentor at FIRST Robotics Competitionup the closest team on the FIRST website and located the RoboHobos, the Parkway North Robotics Team.

Now I have the privilege of working with future engineers and computer scientists, and I get to show them the methods while letting them work out the solutions.  Right now they are working on building a test frame for the software and vision subgroup to work with during the build season starting in late January.  From kickoff to ship date is only six weeks, so they want every day to count.

However, the FIRST Robotics Competition is not just about who can build the best robot or who has the best strategy.  It is also one of the best opportunities for these kids to meet people who have similar interests.  It is a chance for them to be part of a group that will not only fill a St. Louis stadium this spring, but do it by celebrating science and technology.  Much like my high school experience, I hope it will be something these kids will never forget, and as a mentor, I want to help make that happen.

If you would like to become a team mentor, visit the FIRST Website for more information.

Colin Shipley is Senior Automation Engineer at Bastian Solutions’ robotics division in St. Louis, Missouri.

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