Middle Schoolers Excel Under Florida Polytechnic University Mentors

Jan 27, 2017

A robotics team from Lakeland Christian School enjoyed several victories this semester, often against students much older than themselves.

Their secret weapon: Florida Polytechnic University students. “It’s a transformative experience in the lives of young students when they have college kids ready to help them out,” says Jennifer Canady, director of the RISE Institute at Lakeland Christian.

While the team includes students from grades 6-12, half of them are in middle school. Just getting a basic understanding of the mechanics behind robotics can be daunting, much less developing a fully functional robot. Eric Chan, a sophomore studying Computer Engineering at Florida Poly, remembers that frustration well.

“I didn’t really have a mentor in the high school robotics club. We had to come up with a lot of it on our own,” says Chan, of Miami.

Chan and his classmates Michael Schulte and Zach Weingarten teamed up to mentor the team and guide them through the process of creating robots. It quickly turned into something much deeper, though.

“They’re like big brothers to my students,” Canady says. “They enjoy the camaraderie.”

As Schulte, a sophomore studying Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, recalls, the team went into their first competition not expecting to place, but ended up with a second place finish. The young team hugged Schulte and Chan, thanking them for the guidance.

“That really validated the time and effort we put into this,” says Schulte, of Cape Coral. “I’m really excited to see them progress.”

For Chan, this experience not only challenges him to keep his skills sharp, but prepares him for a career as a university professor.

“I really loving teaching and presenting my thoughts,” he says. “It’s really fulfilling for me to teach people who want to learn.”

RISE Team 7719 from Jennifer Canady on Vimeo.