FIRST Robotics Mentor: Lisa Perez
What can you build in about 7 weeks with a team of high schoolers, adult mentors + their knowledge, and 4 studios full of toys, oops, I mean tools? This photograph is a clue! Answer: A league of robots! Maker Works has played host to 4 highschool FIRST teams: The students + their outstanding mentors. Over the next few days, Maker Works blog will feature each team's lead mentor. Their dedication and willingness to share knowledge with students and volunteer many many hours has been amazing to bare witness to.
Lisa Perez is the lead mentor for Huron High school and is also volunteer Leader for District 13.
What is your background?
I was lucky enough to be a member of 2 FIRST teams (Team 573, the Mech Warriors, and Team 1, the Juggernauts) during high school. My experience on those teams was exactly what I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life – at the time, I was playing with a lot of different options. I completed my Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, and am now working on completing my Master’s in mechanical engineering.
How did you originally find out about the FIRST program?
One of my good friends was recruiting for his team. At the time, I didn’t even know the program existed. On my first day of being on the team, they gave me a drill and told me to make a part for the drivetrain. The rush that I got when I saw the part on the robot was amazing- I was hooked!
When did you get involved and what motivated you to participate?
I started mentoring Team 830 as soon as I got to the University of Michigan (7 long years ago!). My mentors definitely inspired me to go into engineering, and I wanted to make sure the same experience was available to high schoolers in the area.
What do you like best about working with young people and problem solving?
I love the 'AHA!' moments. When I see that lightbulb go off when I am teaching concepts, it’s very rewarding, because the students end up taking those concepts and doing amazing things with them. Those amazing things aren’t limited to the robot, either. Over the years, I have seen a lot of projects that the students have come up with and brought to fruition.
What is the most exciting moment in the season for you?
The most exciting moment in the season for me is when the students get to see the robot as a functioning whole, be it 2 weeks before ship day, right at midnight on ship day, or at the competition. When they stand back to stare at it, I can sense the amount of pride in their work that they are feeling.
Do you see a change or transition in the students after participating in the FIRST program and over the course of the 4 years that they may be involved?
Most definitely. They grow into leaders and thinkers. A large number of the upperclassmen on my team were the absolute quietest people when I met them, hesitant to talk about their ideas. Now they are leading their subgroups in making design decisions and applying to college to major in STEM-related fields.
How have you personally changed as a result of working with the high school students in this type of intense atmosphere?
I have become more patient, perseverant, passionate, and proactive in all that I do. There is always a new and exciting problem to conquer, and having those qualities helps not only me but also the rest of the team to find a strong solution.
To find out more information about the FIRST Program, see this website- http://www.firstinmichigan.org
To find out more about Huron High school TEAM 830: https://sites.google.com/site/frcratpack830/team-schedules