Mentor Monday - December 22, 2014

Dec 22, 2014 Written by FIRST Staff


Today’s Mentor Monday blog post comes to us from Claire Stuckey, an alumna and former mentor of FRC Team 1024 and current mentor of FRC Team 4234.

We’d like you to write a blog post about your journey to the current point in your career. What were the most important steps that you took? Were there influential people or events along the way?

The point I remember as the first time I decided to be an engineer was in 4th grade. We'd been going through a lesson about electricity that I really enjoyed, so I asked my dad what I could do as a career since I liked science and math. The two options my dad gave me were that I could be an engineer or an accountant. I can't think of any 4th graders who are really excited about growing up to be an accountant, so I decided I was going to be an electrical engineer. 

A few years later, I got the chance to explore that decision further, attending a summer camp for middle school girls at Rose-Hulman, called Fast Forward. We learned about different types of engineers and designed and competed with little solar powered boats.

My freshman year of high school, my school formed an FRC team, 1024 Kil-A-Bytes. I had some friends on the team and was interested in seeing what it was all about, but I didn't think I had time for it because I was in winter guard and missed the first few meetings. My junior year, I was taking a computer repair class with one of the teachers who worked with the team. He was able to convince me that I would be welcome on the team even though I couldn't make every meeting. I loved it! During build season, I'd go to school, go to robotics for a couple of hours, go to guard practice for a few hours, and then head back to the shop. I'm sure I slept at some point, but I don't really know when.

One of the distinct advantages that FIRST has over many high school activities is the connection with professionals. One of my mentors on 1024, Jason Zielke, helped me discover the college I wanted to attend by suggesting I participate in a summer camp for high school juniors at Rose-Hulman, called Operation Catapult. I got to live on campus and work with professors during that three week period and decided that's where I wanted to go to school.

Another influential mentor of mine is Michael Long. My senior year Michael asked me if I had a job lined up for the summer after graduation. I told him I didn't have any plans. I hadn't even considered doing engineering work when I hadn't even started college. He asked if I would be interested in working where he does, at Rolls-Royce. That's something you can't turn down, so I gave Michael my resume and received my acceptance letter for Rolls-Royce's co-op program a few weeks later.

I worked at Rolls-Royce whenever I wasn't in school at Rose-Hulman and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a full-time job at Rolls-Royce. 

After college, I mentored my high school team for a couple of years. It was a lot of fun, but I needed a change. There are many teams in Indianapolis without enough engineering support, so I asked for a list of teams in need of help. For the past few years, I've been the lead engineering mentor for team 4234, Bark Botz.

How can teams better reach out to female students who aren't on their team?

For recruiting any members, not solely females, teams need to think about how what they're presenting could be intimidating. I was intimidated by the time commitment and missed two years I could have been on my high school team. Not everyone is destined to be a shop rat. Time isn't the only part that's intimidating, considering also those students who don't necessarily think they're the brightest or don't want to embarrass themselves by admitting they've never used tools. Many teams throw "no experience required" at the end of their pitch like an afterthought rather than explaining how new members will be brought up to speed.

How can teams attract more engineering mentors?

Contact your local SWE chapter and invite their members to a demo, outreach event, or competition. I can't think of a better place to start with a group of female engineers interested in volunteer work that's nation wide.

But remember, FIRST teams can be just as intimidating to potential mentors as they can be to students. It can be a large time commitment, especially on top of a full-time job, and there's a steep learning curve.

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