Each year our school robotics team competes in the BEST Robotics Competition. It has been an amazing experience for our students and mentors. Last year the team took home four awards. It was the first year we competed at the highest level. I have been involved with robotics for seven years and to this day I can say I know very little about it. My work as the team advisor and mentor means nothing without the passion to learn each student brings to the team.
In the scope of life it’s easy to think of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students as children, and certainly they are, but they should be viewed as people. Each student has only the 11, 12 or 13 short years of experiences to draw from and yet they can do amazing things. This lack of experience is what keeps them open minded and willing to try again and again.
At least as robotics are concerned, I doubt any of my students have ever had an adult robotics leader tell them “that’s a stupid idea – it’ll never work”. I have to assume that no one in their neighborhood ever challenged them to a robotics contest in the cul-de-sac just to prove themselves smarter or more powerful. Robotics aren’t typically discussed over dinner where an older sibling or a parent might criticize and ridicule without repercussions. These kids still believe in using their imaginations, and playing. They are still acting like children, thank goodness.
Our team members don’t have to be the most knowledgeable to succeed in robotics, they only need the fearlessness that comes from never doubting themselves so much they wouldn’t even try. Sadly, I see those kids all the time – amazing minds and hears filled with fear. I don’t know everything about kids and I certainty know far less about robotics, but I do know that the power to destroy our future lies in the hands of adults everywhere. I encourage you to get involved and volunteer but with this one seed of advice. Choose something you know nothing about and let some child teach you everything they have learned. There is nothing more gratifying in this world than building the character of a child simply by supporting them.