The Importance of Being a Design Mentor

May 17, 2016 at 12:31 AM

Pomperaug Robotics Team Excels at Worldwide FIRST Competition

The Pomperaug Robotics Team recently competed in the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Championship World Championship (FRC) April 22-25 in St Louis, Missouri. The Pomperaug Team, called Panther Project Team #2064, advanced to the semi-final round, placing 4th in the Archimedes division. With over 3000 teams from all over the globe, the Pomperaug High School Robotics team placed in the top 32 teams worldwide.


As a volunteer professional mentor John Laverack, Principal, Nexus Design LLC, has been working with the Robotics Team for five years. 

“The high school students often enter the program with little idea how things get made. They then get to see every aspect of the product development process.  Within just 6 weeks we went from a concept to a working robot (weighing a maximum of 120 pounds) capable of lifting its own weight, which occurred in the last moments of the game.  It is a magical moment for the student when they finally see the ‘product’ come to life. As a mentor, it’s a thrill for me when something that we have conceived of, debated on, designed and finally built and integrated actually ‘does’ what we had intended on the playing field!”

With his guidance and expertise, he oversaw the team through the detailed design of the lift mechanism.  In addition to the intricacies of the lift design, John also contributed to the overall conceptual design and process thereof.  In addition to the robotic design, John and a work group from the team created replica medieval helmets for the team to wear, as part of the overall competition theme.

“Though I am thrilled that the team has done so well this year at ‘Worlds’ the real accomplishment is that several of the students are set on a course of design and engineering. For them the experience is a huge advantage when entering college.  They know what a milling machine does, what a laser can do and of course that building, testing and rebuilding is the best and truly only way to make a reliable design.”

According to the 2016 FIRST Championship website, the FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get.

“As designers giving back to the community this is a very gratifying experience.  Shaping future engineers and designers in high school is an empowering experience.  I like to bring creativity and fun to all that I work on and this program is a vehicle for both.  It’s a wonderful program with ‘I believe’ a laudable educational goal and results. Roll on year 6!!”


Cardboard Medieval Helmets created for the Pomperaug Robotics Team by John Laverack




Additional source: The Patch, Southbury Connecticut, May 11, 2016

Tags: Pomperaug High School, Robotics, FIRST, competition, design mentor, volunteer professional, robotics competition