(As written by one of our volunteer mentors.)When I was in high school, I belonged to the Dungeons & Dragons club. (I know it had a more poetic name, but that’s what we did.) I won’t get specific here, but suffice it to say that everyone in the club shared the same race, gender and social status. Which isn’t necessarily surprising. We were all doing the exact same thing, and it’s not like we made any effort to attract a different demographic into our midst. In retrospect, one thing that I find puzzling is that while we were all on the fringes of the school’s social structure, rather than making that a common bond, we pretty much treated each other as losers.
As a new volunteer to the First Robotics project, it is a real treat to see such a different energy and mentality. Team B’East is comprised of a pretty diverse group of kids, pretty much mirroring the school’s population as a whole.The project has a wide variety of facets, from robot design to construction, electrical wiring to machining parts, plus software development and control systems. Then there is the administration and operational side of managing the group. Plus the marketing side of things, which includes finding and signing up sponsors, creating and updating the web site, and more. Bottom line: there is something for everyone. It’s hard to imagine a high schooler who couldn’t find a task of interest, and a way to leverage his or her unique skills.
It’s also been cool to watch the teams form, interact, merge, split and reform. It’s an amazingly sophisticated, dynamic display of teamwork. There’s a lot to be done, and the group includes, involves, delegates and when necessary, reaches out into the student population to bring in additional skills. It all has a very natural, organic feeling to it. This isn’t inclusion being persistently drilled down from the program mentors. Rather, it’s a diverse group rallying around a common goal.