“I wanted to pass on the confidence I gained from doing robotics to younger students.”
Jennifer Ma flashes a smile as she explains her motivation for leading the LFA Robotics mentoring program. In the program, members of LFA meet middle school students at the Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago to help them compete in robotics competitions.
Jen was on the Lego Robotics team at her middle school when she was a student in China. “I loved it,” she exclaims. “Before, I was just going through life without a specific purpose. Robotics gave me a passion.”
She continues to develop that passion as a member of the Robotics Club at LFA. During G-days, Jen manufactures metal equipment and test-drives her robots with her peers.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, Jen and members of the mentoring program leave LFA’s campus at 3:30 PM and spend about 50 minutes with the middle school students, who call themselves the Robot Builders.
They are split into two teams: construction and research. The construction team is taught computer programming and given tips for robotics design while the research team is guided towards making a strong presentation for the “Project” part of the First Lego League competition.
The Robot Builders attended the First Lego League Illinois Northern Illinois Championship, which took place on February 8th, 2014. Jen comments that for a rookie team, the Robot Builders did very well. “It’s their first time at a state competition. They performed better than the coaches’ expectations during the last two rounds and broke their own record.”
Jen looks forward to working with her fellow coaches and her mentees for another semester before she graduates.
“These kids fell in love with creating robots, which was exactly my goal in joining the mentoring program. I wanted to raise interest in robotics among younger students. It’s just great. I love doing this.”