Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the Other Side of the Lego Fence

December 15, 2011Nicholas has been involved in Lego Robotics (FLL) since 4th grade, and it's been something that has given him such great opportunities to grow and mature. This organization helped him develop teamwork, creativity, focus, dedication, and communication skills, just to name a few things. He's also forged some pretty solid friendships with his teammates through the years. Now that he's in high school, robotics has moved from Legos (model-sized robots) to full-sized, fully formed robots. Our high school has a very large and active organization, with the juniors and seniors taking lead, while the underclassmen serve as essentially apprentices, learning the ropes and assisting when they can. In addition to learning about the transition from Lego robots to the bigger ones, the younger kids are often asked if they might be willing to mentor an elementary Lego team, since they have experience in that arena. When Nicholas was asked if he was interested, he jumped at the chance.

I wondered how Nicholas would do. He hadn't had much practice in the role of mentor, and as a teacher, I myself have pretty direct knowledge of how difficult it can sometimes be to help kids retain focus and energy for a sustained period of time, particularly when that group of kids is comprised of a large handful of ten-year-old boys. Since I didn't attend any of those robotics practices, I didn't really know how he was faring with his group of boys, other than Nicholas' assertions every week that things were going pretty well.

After a couple of months of weekly practice, the big state competition was upon them. Early on a Saturday morning in December, I drove Nicholas to the school for the big day. He proudly showed off his t-shirt, which was a gift from his young students--an honorary team shirt. He said, "Mom, I hope my kids do well today. They're really nice boys, and they worked really hard." I was touched by his maturity, and his investment in these kids. And while they didn't win, his team did, in fact, fare very well in the competition. He was a proud young man, and I was a very proud mama that day. Imagine how much prouder I was when a week or so later I received an email from the high school robotics coach. The elementary coach who had worked with the team Nicholas mentored took the time to send the high school coach an email expressing praise and gratitude for Nicholas' involvement with the team. His coach forwarded it to me (and the principal of the school as well) and I must say, just reading it made me teary with emotion. My little boy is certainly growing up.

Here's the email he sent:

Mr. Lake,
My name is Henry Fierro and I am writing to you about Nick Lutjens and his willingness to be a mentor for my robotic's team. I just finished my first year as a robotics coach for a group of Copper Hill's students (including my son) under the team name CH-600. Overall, my team and I had a great experience with the program and the Central Vally Championship Tournament. Back in September I inquired if my team could be connected with a mentor given my very limited understanding of the program. Through correspondences with CV Robotics (CART) and Benjamin Wong, Nick came forward to offer his assistance to my team.

Nick demonstarted a commitment to attend all our meetings in November (3-4 hours each Wednesday) and our last meeting in the first week of December. Nick was truly a valuable source of knowledge during his time with my team. He also has a wonderful personality that allowed him to connect very well with my team; as one student shared with me, "Nick's really cool to work with." Nick's efforts truly helped foster my team's interest and success in the program.

My intent of this correspondence is to express my appreciation of Nick's time with my team. I have to believe he made time for my team on top of a very busy school workload.

Please share my correspondence with your associates that follow Nick's advancement through Buchanan High.


Henry Fierro
Team CH-600

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