Q: What is your background and how did you become a Mentor to this team?
JG: I was teaching in Vallejo and worked with another teacher, Beth Traub, to build a robotics program at Vallejo High School. In 2013 I came to work at Pittsburg High School and started a new robotics team and engineering academy. Running a FIRST robotics team is absolutely the hardest work I have ever done as a teacher. It is also the most fun and rewarding. Working with students who choose to take a class that meets afterschool and on weekends means I have an incredibly dedicated group of students.

Q: What do you see as the 3-4 main learning experiences students gain from the FIRST program?
JG: The main Learning experiences for students are: problem solving, collaboration, project management, and public speaking.

Q: Do you see STEM education getting stronger through programs like FIRST?
JG: STEM education is absolutely getting stronger. We have two programs at PHS that specifically address STEM education. FIRST robotics, and Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering pathway. Both programs involve students in collaborative, hands on, project-based learning. Students see the relationships between what they are learning and how it is used in the real world.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a Mentor and how do you encourage others to take on this role at other schools?
JG: If you want to know you’ve had a positive impact on teenagers, I cannot recommend FIRST enough. I can contact 25-40 alumni in 24 hours or less. I know who is married, where they are going to school, what their majors, are, and probably have most of them on speed dial. As my wife and I consider retirement and where me might live, being near a FIRST team is a major consideration in that decision.