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Bridging Institutions to Provide Students with Educational Opportunities

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

Let's be honest, I have not managed a robotics team before. I haven't even competed in a robotics competition. But given the opportunity, I know I could learn. If there is one (or another) thing I am good at, it is being a quick learner, learning on the fly and performing my best under pressure.

When I was in college I joined the MIT Diving Team. Granted, our team was not the best (or that good, especially since they asked me to join), but it was a great opportunity to be sporty, something I'd always wanted to be. Although I was a dancer since I was young, I wouldn't have ever considered myself an athlete, so this was my chance! After attending practices for about a month, my coach mentioned,

“"Hey, I want you to compete in our next competition..... this weekend."
"Um, ok, " I replied, a little nervous, especially given that I'd only been a diver for a month.
"There is just one thing. You still need to learn a dive in order to be able to compete. Otherwise they will disqualify you."
"Ha! Ok so when am I going to learn this dive?"
"Well, since the meet is tomorrow, we can teach you during warm-up."
"Warm-up? As in the warm-up for the competition?"
"Yeah. It's easy. You will be fine.".”

So in my first diving competition ever, I learned a twist dive at the meet. It seems that my track record for learning on the fly would be a persistent theme like running my first marathon without training.

But I had to be honest with myself. Although I could learn on the fly, developing and managing a robotics team was biting off more than I could chew. Not to mention, why re-invent the wheel when there were so many well-established, highly-accomplished teams in the Houston area. So the plans started to change. I would first try to network and partner up with a few robotics teams around the city. So I started making calls to various high schools to see if I could have my students join their teams. Upon talking with Jersey Village High School and Energy Institute High School, it became clear that I was developing a program that had been theorized and needed but never executed. I was fulfilling a need. Not only was my program providing an opportunity for students to meet STEM professionals, I was providing students with competition opportunities that were not accessible at their own schools. This was a whole new level. This was a step up from what I had originally planned. And sometimes in life, you have to roll with the punches. Sometimes those punches are genius moments and you have to take them and run with them.

What was once a small program would now need to be an intra-institutional organization where students could join competition teams from other schools. This program would give opportunities to those without access and could be geared towards helping the less fortunate, something I'd always been in support of. I would need to call and involve schools now, not just students and teams. I wanted this to be a Houston-wide Non-Profit Program. The robotics teams I contacted were more than happy to have my students join their program. They were also more than happy to partner up and have my STEM professional mentors come and speak to their students. It was a win-win. And it was just the start of something big!

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