Grundfos engineers Gary Hannah and Ross Turner are a lot like other high school coaches. They help their students perfect their skills, encourage them to do their best and push them to make the most of their talents.
Unlike basketball, tennis or soccer coaches, however, Hannah and Turner know that every last one of their students has the chance to go pro.
They are mentors for FIRST Robotics, a sport whose mission is to create tomorrow’s science and technology leaders. It is a sport that fosters innovation by challenging teams to design and build robots that will compete in regional and national events.
“The FIRST programs provide students of all ages an opportunity to get involved in science and engineering,” said Turner, a product engineer who mentors a team at the Center for Advanced Research and Technology in Clovis, Calif.
He said robotics exposed his high school students to mechanical, electrical and computer engineering, giving them an idea of how problems are solved in the professional field.
Hannah, a senior mechanical development engineer, said the robotics program helped students understand what engineering was all about. Engineers don’t just sit in front of the computer – they actually build and design products.
“The neatest thing is seeing the kids realize what they can accomplish,” said Hannah, whose team is from Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kan., and includes his son, Ryan.
In addition to designing and building the robot, the team members must handle money, practice budgeting, hold promotions, and recruit sponsors. The sport is not cheap. Just to enter, each team needs $5,000 to pay for a box kit of basic materials and an entry fee for regional events.
The $5,000 does not include the cost of travel and additional parts. Each team is allowed to spend an additional $1,500 for extra material.
“I enjoy watching the students create success from a box of parts,” Turner said, adding that he liked seeing them discuss, prototype, modify and re-test as one fully functioning team.
He said that he wished the FIRST robotics programs were around when he was in school and that he hoped to coach his children when they got older.
For both Hannah and Turner, involvement in robotics is more than a personal pastime. It is a reflection of Grundfos values. They partner with community high schools and focus on the youth, investing their time for the students’ futures.
Perhaps the most fitting value, however, is relentless ambition. Mentoring a group of high school students as they create a competitive robot to accomplish complex tasks in only six weeks? As Turner put it, “Enough said.”
For more information about FIRST Robotics, visit www.usfirst.org.