Part 2: Coaching the DRW College Prep Robotics team
Every year, a team of DRW College Prep students band together to compete in their annual robotics tournament. Last time, we heard from Bob, a senior software engineer who began coaching the team two years ago. Below, read about Carissa and Alex, two other DRW employees who joined as volunteer coaches this year.
Although I don’t have much of my own robotics knowledge, working with the students at DRW College Prep has been an experience within itself. I started in October, and joined my colleague Bob (who started the DRW College Prep Robotics Team) every Thursday to share my programming knowledge with the students.
Every week, we set out an objective or feature for the students to accomplish. It might be as complex as incorporating a new computer vision library into their program, or as simple as changing out a robot’s tire to get over a crater. We work with the students to give them the support they need to solve the problem, but encourage them to come to the solution on their own. It’s a valuable experience for them to be working with this type of technology, especially in such a collaborative way.
I feel lucky to be able to give these students this opportunity, because building robots teaches important skills these students will need for the future. Today’s students are future technologists, so it’s important to begin learning early on. A lot of it is trial and error, so it’s not only the technical skills that they’re learning, but problem solving too.
When I interned at DRW two years ago, I didn’t expect that my experience as president of my high school robotics club would come full circle. I worked on Bob’s team as a Trading Analyst Intern, and got to spend time with Deshaun, an intern we were hosting from DRW College Prep. From him, I started to learn about the robotics team at the high school that Bob coached, and I quickly realized what a cool opportunity it was.
Once I began at DRW full time, I started coaching the team during their Saturday sessions, working specifically with the students who build the physical robot (while the other group codes). I really enjoy being able to experience the problem-solving process the kids go through. One example - we needed to figure out how we could make our robot go a specific distance, and I watched one of my students apply a lesson from his physics class all on his own. It’s really special to see how the robotics program allows these students to use their knowledge, and apply it.
Even though sometimes the kids fail, that’s okay, because those experiences are when they learn the most. In high school, I didn’t make the robotics team at first – but my geometry teacher at the time stuck out his neck for me. I’m lucky that now I get to do the same thing with our team, and hopefully teach them something along the way.