Our team is student-run, meaning that our adult mentors provide guidance and advice, but let the students make decisions and do the work themselves. Nevertheless, our team would not be the accomplished group it is today without the help of our mentors. Their support is indispensable to our success, and they enjoy both teaching us and learning from us.
Mentoring is fun!
Several of our mentors agree that guiding and encouraging the kids on this team is a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Mrs. Amy Bewley, one of our mentors on the business subteam has been mentoring the team for six years. “Getting to see students solve challenging issues and problems on their own, or watch them learn something and then turn around and teach it to another student is insanely rewarding. All of the mentors on the team engage and inspire the members of Team Phoenix in ways way beyond just building the robot each year. We all work to help the students appreciate the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, and of course, always show gracious professionalism” she says.
Mr. Jeff Brockway, one of our mentors on the electrical engineering subteam, also appreciates the experience of aiding students in their projects. “I enjoy teaching,” he says, and “seeing the light bulbs go off.” He enjoys “plant[ing] the seeds” and watching students grow over the course of each season. “[Sometimes] I’ll suggest an idea at the beginning of the season, and the kids are reluctant, [and] they reject it … later in the season, they suggest the idea as if it were their own.” He likes to watch the process as students’ minds develop and sort through concepts and ideas.
Mentors can learn just as much as students.
Our multi-talented Mr. Peter Bewley has helped out on various subteams during his time on the team, and enjoys being able to “help everybody.” He emphasizes that although he is a mentor, he learns just as much from the kids as they do from him. For example, over time, he and his students have adopted the mantra “it’s okay if it doesn’t work.” Being a mentor has given him the chance to “try new things [and] learn new things, from the kids, too.”
A mentor on our mechanical engineering subteam, Mr. Alec Muller, agrees that both students and mentors engage in the process of teaching and learning. “I like learning, [and] learning from students as well,” he says, explaining that mentoring contributes to the overall process of “sharing learning” between everyone. Together, he and his students are tackling “the team’s first year [of] using robot modules,” a new construction strategy that he describes as “challenging,” but with “a lot of potential.”
Mentoring isn’t about doing work for students–it’s about helping them become efficient on their own.
Mentor Mr. Christensen is enthusiastic about seeing students become independent and able to solve problems on their own. His goal is to encourage student autonomy. He gives an example: in the situation that a robot breaks down during competition and needs maintenance, mostly “students,” not mentors, “surround [the] broken robot.” If mentors are needed, they will be there, “asking questions” to stimulate thought, but will never “do [the work] for” the students. He notes that during a conversation at a past competition, judges noted that he was “very relaxed” about not “constantly watching” his students. “I don’t have to worry about them doing their job,” he explains.
Likewise, Mr. Kruger admires the fact that his coding students are “self-sufficient” and depend primarily on each other when working on projects. Above all, mentoring is being a friend to students and motivating them to approach challenges independently.
Mentors get to watch students grow and accomplish their goals.
Business team mentor Mrs. Kate Muller’s favorite part of mentoring is watching students “go from shy to confident,” and “encouraging” them as they “grow.” She says that consistently seeing the “kids having fun” and staying “enthusiastic” at challenging and sometimes unsuccessful competitions made her feel very proud about their progress.
Mr. Muller also enjoys observing the process as “students absorb” concepts over time. An idea that he “suggests one year” often resurfaces a few years later as students “suggest it themselves” and apply themselves to it. In addition, he notes the pride he felt when “the team did very well at FRC Worlds 2015.”
Mrs. Bewley shared her most memorable experience with Team Phoenix “When they found out that they were going to Worlds during the 2014-2015 season, it was so amazing to get to see their hard work pay off and to get to be with the team when they found out this great news. Overall, it was just an amazing day and one that I will always remember”.
Lead mentor Mr. Brockway agrees that “seeing shy, quiet kids become outgoing” and “watching them develop and learn” is one of the best parts of mentoring. Every mentor gets a first-row view as students progress in leaps and bounds each season.