Makers make Makers – Chuck Stephens
At last year’s ROBOTICON, I learned that Team Hydra was in need of a mentor. It was so rewarding to work with them and their faculty sponsor Marian Manganello through the FRC build season and to accompany them to the Orlando Regional Championship. Ivy, the young spawn of a Subgenius who unknowingly inspired so many changes in me at the St. Pete Science Fest, was a senior this year and a driving force on the team. It was great to give back after what she gave me, even if she didn’t know she had given it. The Regional was an amazing experience! If ROBOTICON is like a tent revival, the Orlando event was the rapture. I still get goosebumps when I remember the looks on those kids faces and all the truly amazing people I met that week.
Now I’m working with another awesome team, the Edgar Allen Ohms, from the Land o’ Lakes public library. This is the first library-based FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team in the country, opening the door for many more such collaborations in the future. Sean McGarvey and Paul Stonebridge are a couple of amazing senior mentors, but the real news is that the team was started as a special project by a dedicated young man who was working as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer working for FIRST at the time and has now gone on to be a VISTA coordinator for the organization. He saw a need and put his passion and skills to work filling that need. He pulled in another young man as a mentor who’s skill set was complimentary to his own and they’ve done amazing work. They’ve gathered a core group of young folks and turned them into a good team that works together very well.
Who are these guys? Well, the VISTA is named Joel Croteau, one of the FTC Team Duct Tape kids who so impressed me a few years ago at my first Maker festival when he was still a high school kid. And as for the other young mentor- it’s Chris Willingham, Terri’s son. The wonderful thing about investing time in FIRST robotics, maker events and STEM programs is seeing the dividends of your investment paid forward by the kids you initially gave your time and support to. Joel and Chris have grown to not only be colleagues of mine but awesome friends, who share my passion for all things geeky and tech related. I can’t wait to see what Ryder, Marissa, Ivy and all the other kids who have had such a big impact on me accomplish when they graduate.
So now here we are at the start of yet another venture- the Independent Maker’s Network. Of course this isn’t really a new project, it’s just another outlet for our collective passion and dedication to make creativity, technology and a supportive community accessible to all.
Please join us on this journey. If Tampa’s growing maker community could change my life in so many awesome and positive ways, how many more lives can we change as we grow and bring more makers into the fold?
Join us on the journey, but be careful you don’t get hit by those all doors that keep flying open.
Makers make makers!