Q+A with Society of Peer Mentors, Robotics Co-Chair

April Gaydos, the Robotics Co-Chair for the Society of Peer Mentors organized a workshop on how to run a successful robotics team. We asked her a few questions about the work that went into it and what she enjoys about being involved in Peer Mentors. Check it out!

Q: How did you first become involved with Peer Mentors and why did you decide to join?
A:Upon entering my first year at LSU, I attended the Encounter Engineering Bridge Camp for freshmen. This camp was led by most of the members in the organization. These students truly inspired me throughout this week. From giving helpful advice to teaching us that engineering is fun, I was intrigued by this organization and how they came to be. After camp, I interviewed for a position within the Society of Peer Mentors as a robotics mentor. One year later, I was promoted to robotics chair. Joining this organization is one of the best decisions I have made in my college career.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a part of this group?
A: Being a part of this organization is more than just student involvement. The people in the Society of Peer Mentors become your family. Their goal is to help you grow as a student, a professional, and as a person. This different dynamics is what makes the Society of Peer Mentors stand out.

Q: What are your duties as Robotics Co-Chair?
A: As Robotics Chair, I work with both LSU students and East Baton Rouge K-12 schools. We pair mentors from LSU with the robotics programs in East Baton Rouge to work with them throughout their competition season. I also conduct interviews, trainings, and weekly meetings, as well as communicate with all parties involved throughout this process. I also have a Co-Chair that works with me on all of these endeavors.

Q: Tell us about the recent workshop on how to run a successful robotics team that you held. What did you do at the workshop, who was there, etc.?
A: This work shop was created for the leaders of robotics teams in Louisiana. We spent the day educating these leaders on how to build a successful team through team building exercises, personality tests, conflict resolution, design processes, and goal setting. Also, since we had limited time for this seminar, each leader left with a portfolio detailing all of the information from the day, as well as additional information on business plans, obtaining sponsors, and awards. In total, we had eleven schools attend this workshop.

Q: Tell us about the amount of time and energy you put into making this workshop happen.
A: This work shop has been two years in the making. The process started with an initial idea to help build robotics teams in non-technical aspects: business plans, sponsorships, leadership skills, team building, etc. I presented this idea to Adrienne Steele, the STEP coordinator, who approved the idea for this workshop. I then created surveys to receive feedback on what the teachers would like to see in this workshop. This feedback is what inspired the topics that were presented during this workshop.

Q: What made you interested in hosting this workshop/what gave you the idea to do so?
A: After spending eleven years in the FIRST Robotics Program, I have seen many strong teams struggle due to poor leadership, lack of future goals, financial concerns, etc. There are not many resources regarding these topics. Because of this, I took it upon myself to help these teams improve and grow. This project was special to me because of my own experiences within the robotics programs.

Q: Did you face any obstacles along the way and if so, how did you get past them?
A: Many obstacles occurred along our path to creating this workshop. One of the biggest obstacle was coordinating a day where there LSU had an away football game and the teachers were available to attend. Multiple surveys were sent out in attempt to find the best day available for all parties involved.

 

Q: How has being in Peer Mentors and serving in a leadership position prepared you for life after college?
A: The Society of Peer Mentors has given me many opportunities to grow. Coming in to this program, I was shy and quiet, but the opportunities I have been given has pushed outside of my comfort zone. I have given many presentations, led trainings, and now hosted my own workshop that I oversaw from start to finish. Before joining this program, I would not have felt confident enough to be able to accomplish these tasks!

Name: April Gaydos
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Hammond, LA
Society of Peer Mentors, Robotics Chair

Encounter Engineering at LSU Before School Starts

Encounter Engineering (E2) Camp begins in just a few weeks for our incoming class of 2019. For you younger students out there, here’s some more information about our camp and a blog from a student who’s not only attended the camp herself, but worked for it as an upperclassmen.

About Encounter Engineering
Encounter Engineering (E2) is a one week bridge camp hosted the week before the fall semester each year. It introduces incoming engineering, construction management, and computer science first-year students to the College of Engineering and helps them transition from high school to college mindsets. Dedicated staff, counselors, and peer mentors work hard to give these students everything they need to succeed. Each group of incoming freshmen is paired with a peer mentor that is either currently in the student’s preferred major or a major of interest in the College of Engineering. Peer mentors guide students through a variety of activities, lead design and professional development sessions, and host evening activities with industry personnel.


Giselle Medina

Giselle Medina

Hi, my name is Giselle Medina, and I am currently a senior in mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University as well as a peer mentor for the Society of Peer Mentors. I am originally from Beaumont, Texas, so coming to LSU not knowing anyone else in engineering was stressful to think about.

As an incoming freshmen, participating in Encounter Engineering (E2) created a smooth transition from high school to college academics. One of the great things that my family and I liked about this camp is that I got to move in a week early and adjust to the campus before college classes even started. This was such a comfort since I was able to become familiar with the buildings and campus a week in advance. While this was great, I quickly realized how much more this program had to offer.

A few weeks before camp even started, I remember getting an email from my peer mentor introducing herself and telling me all about Encounter Engineering. Just this simple act was enough to get me excited! I could not wait! The first day of camp, my parents and I went to the theater in the LSU Student Union and were introduced to our peer mentor and student groups. After that, I remember saying goodbye to my parents, going to my residence hall, and making friends with other campers immediately. Not only was this camp an eye opener to life as an engineering student at LSU, but it was a great way for me to make friends and get to know students before school even started!

I remember the first few days were super eventful. We were working on a Rube Goldberg design project with our team which helped us get a better understanding of what engineering was like. A Rube Goldberg is a project where you complete a simple task in as many steps as possible. We were given a limited amount of supplies with some “currency” we could use at a “shop” in case we wanted to buy more supplies. The team with the most steps, least amount of money spent, and a successful Rube Goldberg would win the contest. Unfortunately, my team did not win, but it was still a fun and insightful experience!

Students at Encounter Engineering camp

Students at Encounter Engineering camp

I also attended mock calculus and physics classes during camp and met some of my future professors. I knew my calculus and physics professor before school even started! Each class was set up to be an example of what an actual college class was like. This proved to be another big help for me because I had a better understanding of what to expect. Towards the end of E2, we all attended a large industry dinner with industry personnel from different companies. This was a huge opportunity for us since we were able to network with professionals before our other classmates.

One of my favorite parts about the camp was the academic discussions with peer mentors and faculty about transitioning into college, as well as how to keep up good grades and a social life. No one can give better advice than a student who has been in your shoes and has gone through the classes you will be going through. The entire experience was invaluable and definitely helped prepare me for my first day. Without E2, I would not have met the friends I currently have today. I would not have had a role model and mentor in my major that I could go to for advice or academic help. Most importantly, I would not have become a peer mentor and helped other incoming freshmen as I do today.

So why should you consider Encounter Engineering? I would say for a few reasons. It has been observed that students who went attended the E2 camp were more likely to stay in the College of Engineering and succeed in their classes versus students who didn’t participate. Just one week of mock classes, team building, discussions, design challenges, and more led to tremendous outcomes. Also, students are given a valuable connection through Encounter Engineering – their peer mentor. My first summer as a peer mentor, I had a group of four students. Even after camp was over, I kept in contact with most of them. I was able to give them study aid books and online copies of my textbooks that helped them in their freshmen classes. I was able to answer any questions they had about the campus or the College of Engineering. I was able to give them advice about mechanical engineering classes, and it simply goes on from there. The last reason, and a big reason why I participated, was because it gave my parents and me peace of mind about starting college. My parents knew that I would be in good hands and learn from the program. I knew that I had an extra week to learn about LSU, learn from upperclassmen in the College of Engineering, and meet my classmates before school started.

– Giselle Medina
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

For more information about Encounter Engineering, please visit our website at www.eng.lsu.edu/current/freshmen/e2.

Making the Most of Your Time at LSU through Student Organizations

This blog post is contributed by a mechanical engineering junior named Jordan who has been involved in student organizations at the College and University level. She’s going to share with you how they’ve made a positive impact on her time at LSU and even her future!

My junior year at LSU I decided to get more serious about my future and getting a full-time job, so I decided to work at the Encounter Engineering freshman transitions camp and become a part of a student organization called the Society of Peer Mentors. I found out about this organization because all of my friends were in it, which is usually how you learn good information in college: talking to people. Building friendships, talking to people, and seeking advice has caused me to have the most success at LSU. Friendships help get you through classes because of moral support.

Society of Peer Mentors before Encounter Engineering Camp

Society of Peer Mentors before Encounter Engineering Camp

Although I have been in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, African Student Organization, National Society of Black Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, and the Society of Women Engineers – the Society of Peer Mentors holds a dear place in my heart. The Society of Peer Mentors (SPM) instilled in me leadership skills, taught me responsibility, helped me network, and grow as a student. They taught me how to make a resume, interview and improve my communication skills. It also caused me to get rid of my hot pink hair and knee-high socks. SPM is an interdisciplinary leadership organization for STEM majors that feels more like a family than an obligation, and I can honestly say I would’ve dropped out of LSU if it weren’t for the people I turned to there for support. The faculty I met there really care about students’ success and the bonds I’ve made have been indelible.

Jordan with previous STEP Manager, Summer Dann, and another peer mentor.

Jordan with previous STEP Manager, Summer Dann, and another peer mentor.

Some other great things about the Society of Peer Mentors has been the students I’ve worked with. In SPM student innovation and involvement is key. In fact, some of my peers started Robotics mentoring programs at local schools and others started Louisiana’s first hackathon with “Geaux Hack.” It’s been amazing to constantly be working with amazing people that challenge me to be better every day.

Student organizations like SPM have been a stepping stone to my jobs. They taught me about responsibility and how to disagree with someone. I’ve had to deal with real-life issues like funding, conflict of interest and mentoring people in tough situations. They’ve made me a leader and have helped me connect to people I would’ve previously not thought possible. Undoubtedly the real world is harder. I found this out when I took a year off to work a Co-Op and get experience. But student orgs help you mature professionally, as well as personally, and help make the transition to full-time work easier.

Jordan and peers at a press conference with Gov. Bobby Jindal

Jordan and peers at a press conference with Gov. Bobby Jindal

That being said…Any form of involvement at LSU will help make you a better all-around person whether it be tutoring at the center of academic success, painting up with friends for football games, rolling down the Indian Mounds at four in the morning with your best friend, or playing pickup soccer with the international students on the Parade grounds. You get out of LSU what you put into it. As a student you need to enjoy college while it lasts and really find yourself. Take the time to discover your goals and passions and don’t get distracted from being happy. Make the most of your time at LSU and explore.

By Jordan Favret
Mechanical Engineering Junior