Robotics Mentorship Program: Building An Interest In The Stem Field

Trey Yamamoto, Reporter

     Going into their second year, MHS Robotics Club members have been working with students from Mililani Middle School (MMS) in their mentorship program. The program lasts from September to December. This year, two club members, Treasurer and Mechanical Lead Junior Matthew Matsuo and President and Project Manager Senior Aleczander Paul, are mentoring five students from the middle school.           

     “We want the middle school students we are mentoring to leave with at least a small seed of interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), one that we hope they cultivate and grow into a passion that lasts them a lifetime,” said Paul.

     The robotics mentorship program started as a brainstorming process for how the high school robotics team could help improve the robotics programs of feeder schools, like MMS. The middle school already had a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) tech challenge team. The high school robotics club decided to provide them with the support and experience needed in order to help them  prepare for the competition. “In the Robotics Mentorship program, a couple of us high schoolers drive down to Mililani Middle School on Mondays and Thursdays to help their team build a successful robot for the FIRST Tech Challenge Competition that we also compete in here at the high school. They also come up to MHS on Saturdays and build their robot alongside us and can receive help from other members of our club who they would not normally get help from,” said Paul.

     Though MMS has its own robotics club, this program allows for students interested in the subject to have a smoother transition to a higher level of learning at the high school. While the mentors pass on their knowledge of the subject through assisting and guiding the students, they also provide them with valuable hands-on experience. “Their primary responsibilities is to basically run the team, so they’re there to provide technical support, there to provide organizational means through navigating through the season, the engineering design process, working together as a team, building their team collaboration as well,” said Robotics Advisor Tyson Kikugawa. Paul added, “We teach the MMS students both technical and soft skills through this program. Everything from how to properly tighten or loosen nuts and bolts to documentation, teamwork and most importantly, expanding their horizons on what is possible to inspire them to share their ideas and make an impact of their own.”

     For both Matsuo and Paul, their interest in robotics has stemmed from the clubs and classes they’ve taken while at the middle school. This serves as one of the main reasons why they’ve decided to join the robotics club as well as participate in this program. “We recently started it in 2018, but this is especially important to me because I was on the team when I was in middle school and then they disbanded for the years after, so it is nice to come back and help them reboot the program. I stayed because I want to make a difference and improve both myself as a person as well as the club,” said Matsuo. 

     Paul added, “While this program did not exist while I was attending MMS, the opportunities I got there such as my introduction to technology classes, computer science classes and LEGO robotics clubs inspired me to take a chance and join the robotics team here at MHS. While all those factors got me to join, I stayed because here I found a community of like-minded individuals who wanted to better themselves and each other through the process of building robots.”

     Although there isn’t any new content being taught currently, there are plans for the program to improve and grow in size. The program’s main goal is to prepare MMS students for future opportunities in the STEM field. “I want this program to help the students to find their passion, whether it be in robotics or something STEM related. I also want it to help the ones who are planning to join in high school to get a head start so they can already have skills to contribute to the team more,” said Matsuo. Paul added, “We also hope that their experience in this program inspires them to join our FIRST Robotics team as well, where they can further the skills we taught them and learn new ones.” 

As of now, the Robotics Club plans to continue their mentorship program for years to come and hope to get more students interested in STEM.