DVIDS – News – NPS Researcher Mentors the Next Generation of Robotics Engineers

For six weeks, students and mentors at the Santa Catalina School in Monterey meticulously built a robot to compete in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) regional robot competition held March 24-26 at Seaside High School.

Santa Catalina, an all girls high school level boarding school and day school, is a perfect example of why FIRST was formed.

In 1989, entrepreneur Dean Kamen and physicist and MIT professor emeritus Woodie Flowers noticed the lack of younger students — particularly minority students — considering career fields in science and technology, and the FIRST program was developed as part of the solution . 30 years later, the latest FIRST Robotics Competition now includes 3,898 teams with more than 97,000 students and 29,000 mentors from 34 countries.

Santa Catalina first approached the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in 2018 looking for mentors for the team they dubbed “Nuns and Bolts,” and Brandon Naylor, a research faculty member in the NPS Energy Academic Group, responded to the request Phone call .

Back then, the team was just starting out, with just two students and a lot of passion to set up a robotics team at their school.

“The team was founded by two ambitious students, but the school did not have a faculty with the right combination of availability and relevant experience to mentor and mentor the students,” Naylor said. “I had FIRST major in robotics in high school, minored in robotics, and had a supervisor who was okay with me adjusting my schedule so I could meet with the team every day after work.

“As the team’s mentor, I teach the girls everything from how to use tools and design principles to computer-aided design and coding,” he continued.

Naylor has been a mentor to the team for almost four years and dedicates time after his workday to support the students and support the team which is particularly active during the competitive season.

“Each January, FIRST releases a new game for the season, and my goal is to help the students bring their ideas to life in the form of a working robot that achieves the game’s goals,” Naylor said. “Ultimately, I want the students to build a robot of their own design and teach them skills they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

And according to Steve Nixon, a Santa Catalina teacher who serves as the senior mentor for the team, Naylor’s support and guidance was a key factor in enabling the team to field a competitive robot in the latest competition and attracting new students to the team.

“Brandon’s brain was invaluable to the team,” said Nixon. “I don’t know how we would have gotten this far if it wasn’t for him. He has been with the team since its very first year and has been instrumental in the team’s success.”

More than just a helping hand, Naylor has offered his expertise in all aspects of robot building and is able to challenge students to create more complicated designs and help them turn their ideas into reality.

“[Naylor] is the only dedicated tree mentor we have on the team,” said Caitlin Sullivan, a Santa Catalina senior and student leader on the robotics team. “He brings a lot of great ideas to the team and brings a great perspective that is usually different from ours.”

Naylor said he loves working with Catalina’s students. Not only does it provide him with an opportunity to give back to the community, he says, but it also helps to integrate a more diverse population of young students who are developing a passion for robotics, an area Naylor is quite passionate about himself.

As a graduate school, NPS’s role is to support the development of knowledge, and one of the best things we can do as NPS staff and students is to help share that knowledge with the next generation, added Added Naylor.

FIRST Robotics consists of hundreds of regional-level competitions that bring schools from across the country together and test their robots in a variety of challenges, including throwing balls into goals, placing tubes on racks, and hanging from poles. The regional competition winners will then be invited to compete at the national level, scheduled for April 20-23 in Houston, Texas.

Date of recording: 04.12.2022
Release Date: 04.12.2022 16:51
Story ID: 418369

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