The Ninjineers created a team, which meets every Monday and Tuesday, of student mentors to coach 5th to 7th grade students in their robotic endeavors. The team hosted their third annual First Lego League (FLL) competition Nov. 17. “A part of our Upper School robotics team, we try to do a lot more outreach than just keeping it to the school. So, one of the things we like to do is this competition because it engages the youth around the tricounty area to come and get their hands on the ‘First’ experience that most of us have,” senior mentor Sidhaanth Rath said.
Rath and the other student mentors meet the elementary school students after school every Monday and Tuesday to teach them the four aspects of FLL: core values, project, engineering and programming. Rath feels the volunteers enjoy working for something more personal than just service hours. “There’s the incentive of service hours, but I feel that the volunteers we get here are not necessarily focused on the service hours; they’re more focused on the outreach aspect of our club so that these students not only have a great experience here but also end up in our upper school robotics club,” Rath said.
Senior David Mendez agrees but also enjoys volunteering for the community outreach events because they allow him to hang out with friends while working in his area of passion. “Robotics as a club has not just taught me engineering. It’s taught me problem solving on an essential level. It’s not just fixing a robot, it’s how to solve problems efficiently,” Mendez said. Beyond producing passionate mentors, the program also successfully brought in kids to the Upper School robotics team and found the program created a goal-setting environment for the elementary school students.
While Heritage’s team has not made it to the top ten of the world, the robotics team still makes it their goal to improve their international ranks. “At the end of the day, they are supposed to have fun but it is still a competition,” Rath said. FLL only allows 10 people on a team to compete to come to competition. The team begins by teaching all fifty students who sign up and then cutting the group down to twenty kids based on their performance. The final 20 are split into two groups, creating an environment for mentors to teach students one-on-one. This year, the mentors from all schools found pride in the awards the student teams won at the Nov. 17 competition: Alpha Ninjineers won the Core Values award, Cosmic Ninjineers won the Project Award and Elements won the Champions Award.