27 May 2011

How to support engineering

David and I were headed out to dinner last Friday and as we were walking to the Thai place that we like, I noticed a bunch of people with some kind of big display set up on Ellsworth Drive. And because I am inexorably pulled toward bunches of people with big displays* as Pekoe is inexorably pulled towards people wearing colors that have a high contrast to orange cat hair, I veered in toward the people to see what was what.

What it was was the Blair Robot Project***.  My alma mater sponsors Team 449 in the FIRST Robotics Competition and I won't bother to retype all of the "about us" text, but Blair competes prett' near every year and does pretty well prett' near every year. 

I admired the robotics, explained why I couldn't have any of the baked goods they were selling, stuffed a buck in the till, took a picture or two, and asked for some literature. I also gave my business card to the one of the adult mentors and suggested that she e-mail me and ask for a donation. I figured that if I got an e-mail, then they actually wanted the money.  I got the e-mail!

My company is chock full of engineers, so I figured that I could convince my Boss that supporting this kind of thing could help to grow our future employees.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, a whole bunch of the Blair Robot Team are ... female.  Women are underrepresented in science and engineering.  Sort of like wheat products are underrepresented on my shopping list.

Had he been hard to convince, I had a good paragraph from their hand-out at the ready:  "FIRST encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals.  FIRST and FRC are not just about building better robots or better engineers - they're about about building better individuals and better communities." Alas, I didn't have to quote this high falutin' rhetoric because my Boss agreed right away that our company should make a donation.  The check request awaits his signature. 

So if you wish to support science and engineering, or future women engineers, or cool robot stuff, check out their website:  Blair Robot Project or this one For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).  If you want to make things super easy on yourself send a check to Montgomery Blair High School, 51 University Blvd E, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (put "Robotics Team" in the memo line). 

And if you want to see why I want to work with these folks after they graduate from college, check out the Quotes page.  Three of my favorites:

"The drive chain is loose? Not my problem. Here, have a wrench. It might not be the right size." Eric Van Albert, in a rather blunt blog post

"Robotics is really preparing us for jobs at NASA. Look. We're past deadline overweight, overbudget, and our [project] doesn't even work!" Ben Shaya

"The harvester almost harvests, the shooter almost shoots, the robot almost drives, and the code almost compiles!"Ben Shaya, in describing the progress made on the robot

*What do I veer away from?  Well-meaning volunteers (or poorly paid staffers) with clipboards who ostensibly wish to "educate"** me about their issue but are really fundraising.  I don't give money to people on the street. 

**In the Leta dictionary (i.e., what I've noticed that people really really seem to mean) "educate" means "hector others into seeing things your way." 

***I think that's the first time that I didn't accidentally type "Blair Robert Project." 


Brett said...

I, of course, donate to your alma mater's supernatural and sorcery team, the Blair Witch Project.

Mandie said...

Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back and we'll talk about it.


Mandie Hayes