Thursday, April 11, 2013

Q&A with FIRST Coach Sherry Batin: "Have Patience."

The Bishop-Wisecarver family of companies is proud to be recognized as a FIRST Robotics Competition Diamond Supplier this year — we're even more proud of the great work accomplished by the teams we sponsor. Both the students and the mentors are an inspiration to us all, and it's an honor to share their story.

This week, we'd like to feature Sherry Batin, the assistant coach for the Fembots team #692, who was eager to share her experiences about FIRST with us: what compelled her to get involved and how she was able to fill the role of a FIRST coach.

A mechanical engineer by training, Sherry clearly had the technical skills for the position, but per the organization's founder Dean Kamen, FIRST is about "...more than just building a robot." See what Sherry had to say about what it takes to be a successful FIRST mentor!

Question: What made you decide to become a FIRST coach and what have you gained
from this experience?

SB: After some unusual circumstances that happened to the team the previous year, I wanted the
students on the team to know that there will always be someone there to support them. Really, I
did it for the students, because they needed someone to lead them, especially when they started
to think no one wanted to be their coach.

I didn't think I was grown up enough to lead a group of high school students and handle such a large endeavor, but they needed someone; I bit the bullet and took on this huge role. Although, I put myself aside to take on this big job for the team, and I gained a load of new experiences. I became more confident in myself and my abilities to lead people. I learned to not hesitate when planning needed to happen and that with a “grown up” role I should always be the first to act.

Question: We recognize that FIRST is not just about kids building a robot. What else does this competition mean for you as a coach? What else does this competition mean for the

SB: FIRST is a lot more involved than your typical after school club. So many things have to happen at the same time for a FIRST team to do what it needs to do, but the most important are the
relationships it creates because it's a chance for students to participate with professionals in their field (engineers or otherwise). It's where true mentorship happens. Students get this rare chance to hear about what these professionals did to reach the point that they're already at in their
careers while creating a relationship with these adults.

Question: As a FIRST coach, what have you learned about yourself, particularly in regards
to your strengths and weaknesses?

SB: I have learned a lot about my interpersonal skills. I have been told that I have this commanding air that the students find comfort in following; people management seems to come easily to me. However, I also think that my interpersonal skills need more work. I think that may be because I am neither a teacher nor a parent, but it something that I will continue to work on.

Question: Which aspect(s) of the FIRST Robotics Competition are you most excited about?

SB: I personally love the three days worth of competitions. I enjoy the fast paced atmosphere where
quick thinking and problem solving skills are most important. I also enjoy being able to see what
other teams have created to solve the same design problem presented to everyone at the beginning of January.

Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a coach?

SB: I love story time. I like sharing stories, stories that can inspire the students, anecdotes to share when things start to seem bleak and tiring. It doesn't matter if it's my own personal story or stories I've heard from other teams or people. I want my students to understand that as unique as this team can be, there are thousands of other teams, thousands of other students going through similar experiences. I want to remind my students that although our experiences are special to us, there are other examples and experiences that we can gain inspiration from.

Question: What advice do you have to give to future or other FIRST coaches?

SB: Have patience. As much as we adults want to do everything for the students; as much as it would save time and money to do it ourselves, that's not the point of this program at all. So FIRST coaches, have patience. Guide them through the process, but the important thing is that they get to the end result themselves.

Question: What do you think the future of FIRST is, and of STEM in general?

SB: I want to see FIRST continue to grow. I have been affiliated with FIRST since 2002 and it has grown so much already. I want to continue to be involved for 10 more years. As huge as this program is, the interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is still small.

Too many people discover the magic of STEM later, and it would be amazing to see more young people be interested in STEM sooner. Somehow, young people need to stop being afraid of math and science...

Question: Is there anything else about FIRST that you’d like to share?

SB: FIRST gives you such awesome experiences, adults and students alike. I would encourage
anyone to become involved in FIRST.