This past Saturday, I headed to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School to attend one of the first working meetings of the Cristo Rey SHPE Jr. Chapter's "Los Clasicos" robotic team as they prepare for their second ever participation in FIRST Robotics. Last year, they were a rookie team, this year they hope to learn from last year's lessons. When I arrived at noon, I met 5 people from their team: Jason (a senior and marketing chair of the chapter), Anthony (President of the chapter, a senior and robotics team lead/mechanical/programming, interns at Medtronic), Miguel (a senior and in a mechanical role in the team), Nelson (a senior and in a programming role) and Gysselle (just joined the team, and a senior) along with their teacher, Eric Hartz, who is also their faculty advisor.
They were building the chassis and attaching the drive train for the robot, the first part of a six week creative/technical journey to FIRST Robotics. They had to cut and fit pieces of aluminum to assemble this. They are following the guidelines for this new chassis they were able to acquire. They chose the long configuration. The contest this year will take place at the University of Minnesota this year on April 1st, 2nd and 3rd 2015.
We were later joined by Andres (Hardware, Senior, interns at Medtronic), Jenny (Senior, no role yet and second meeting), Uriel (Junior and first meeting) and Karla (sophomore, no role yet). Michelle arrived two hours later, second time here, role on team was mechanical.
We had to wear goggles because they were cutting metal. The whole assembly took about 3 hours of solid work. Good thing that the metal only needed to be cut once due to the precise indications of their teacher. The more demanding part was to screw the parts in place, due to the awkward location of some of the washers. So now that the chassis is assembled, the next part begins with design and assembly of the turret. This year the challenge is to have the robot move and stack recycling boxes one on top of another. Best of luck team!
I would like to take credit on behalf of SHPE-TC and all the other SHPE organizations in Minnesota. We are indeed making a difference. From an article in the Pioneer Press, dated 2/19/2014 we can read : "That [high school graduation] gap has closed in the past three years with black and Hispanic students making the most progress, improving their graduation rates more than 10 percentage points since 2010."
But the gap is still large: "The difference between white and minority students remains stark. The white student [high school] graduation rate is 85 percent, while the rate for most minority students is less than 60 percent".
Should we deem this a mere coincidence that since 2010 there has been much progress in the Twin Cities graduation rates? Between 2010 and 2013 we have had the first two Noche de Ciencias in Minnesota history, reaching out to a combined audience of 200 students and parents. We have also been more consistently holding networking events and our chapter has grown since 2011 about 200% in membership. I would also like to congratulate organizations like Navigate which work with the undocumented since that is an inescapable reality affecting our community. Their work is inextricably linked to these statistics and this gap that still appears dismal but I believe that is not an insurmountable task. Just because something never happened before does not make it impossible. Believe.
I went to see the presentation of Astronaut Abby at a local library. Kare News 11 was there and got to appear on the 6pm news. Her talk was great and focuses on sticking to her dream of being the first astronaut to land on Mars. It is quite refreshing to see someone with great aspirations and not afraid of thinking big. The three pillars are: think big, act big and inspire others.
I think this, in my mind, reflects this past year. We are finally on the move, after a slow and painful restart phase two years ago. Slowly we are building some momentum and, through collaboration with other local chapters, have all been able to achieve things no one had achieved before, like the first Noche de Ciencias.
Being on the Board of SHPE-TC is truly a hands-on experience. As engineers, we don't tend to see or appreciate the business side of things. As a leader, one learns the different challenges that sometimes do not present themselves with a technical solution. This ability to see the world from the two perspectives (business and technical) is increasingly viewed as valuable today. Not just because of the leadership experience itself, but the combination of the two. That is where the art of strategy lies, right in the middle. It is a matter of perseverance, and even in a small way, we have already changed the world. Hopefully, for the better.