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

My experience at the Grace Hopper Conference

This blog post comes from a Computer Science student who recently attended a large conference for women in computing. Jackie shares her daily experiences and thoughts from the conference below!


Grace Hopper is the largest conference for women in computing. I was lucky to attend the event for the second time with Yahoo on a scholarship.

Tuesday Oct. 18
I left for Houston a day earlier than the conference because Yahoo planned a dinner for all the scholarship recipients. On my way to the hotel, I met up with another scholarship recipient because I didn’t want to take an Uber by myself. As soon as we met, we instantly clicked and began to talk like we had been friends forever. At the dinner, I was sort of quiet as I observed all the strangers in front of me. The majority of them were from California, and I didn’t have a lot in common with them regarding how we grew up. If only, I knew I was sitting next to people who would be the best part of my GHC experience.

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Wednesday Oct 19
First day of the conference was pretty busy. I rode to the convention center with some scholarship recipients and a Yahoo employee. I splurged and bought a tea from Starbucks to start my morning only to spill it on the floor before I could drink it. I had quite of few interviews ahead of me, but I wanted to make sure I could see the keynote. A dose of inspiration and a confidence boost was exactly what I needed. During the keynote, the winner for the technical leadership ABIE award was announced. Anna Patterson, who is currently the Vice President of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence for Google won the award, and a video was played where people who knew her personally talked about her accomplishments. I had a strange feeling in my heart. A part of me was pitying myself because I would probably never be as successful or make as great as an impact on the world as Anna has. The optimistic, risk-taking side of me suddenly buried those thoughts, and I began to think about what it would take to be that person. I’ve made it this far despite many challenges, I couldn’t help but wonder where I’ll be in a few years. Grace Hopper was beginning, and I was getting exciting because I would never find more opportunities in one place in such a short amount of time anywhere else. I wish I could tell you about all the sessions I went to, but I unfortunately didn’t get to go to any because I had a bunch of interviews. As a college senior without any career plans after school, I don’t think that’s a bad problem to have.

Thursday Oct 20
I spent most of my time in the career expo meeting different companies and interviewing. At this point I was getting pretty exhausted, but my goal was to try to get a job offer from the conference. Yahoo threw a pretty awesome event where employees showed demos of some of the cool technology they were working on. Yahoo employees are seriously some of the coolest people I’ve met. These are the type of people who you can instantly become friends with as soon as you meet them. Everyone is so genuine and honest, which is really refreshing and rare to see. Yahoo hosted a hack event where students could create new projects using some of Yahoo’s technology before the conference. After the demos, we watched the students present their projects. I also met Tumblr’s CEO, David Karp after he gave everyone some insight of his journey with Tumblr.

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Friday Oct 21
I went to a speed mentoring session to start my day. I went to the event last year and enjoyed it so I wanted to make sure I went again. I tried to explain my struggle of being a college senior who is completing a computer science degree in 3 years opposed to 4. That’s one less year I could have had an internship or experience in programming. The competition for great jobs in computer science is steep, and I’m at a disadvantage. The response I received wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.

I spent most of my time with my friends from LSU because I hadn’t really hung out with them the entire conference. I got to catch up on how their interviews went, and I was able to get lunch with them. After lunch we went to the closing keynote. Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce started off the keynote. I thought it was interesting how GHC didn’t choose a female CEO to speak at keynote. Female CEOs are still rare, and I would have loved more insight on some on the struggles female executives face. The most powerful part of the keynote was watching the trailer of the new movie, ‘Hidden Figures’. The movie is about the untold story of 3 women at NASA, and their work helped John Glenn become the first astronaut to complete an orbit around the Earth. The movie openly discusses racism and discrimination, but still seems to be pretty humorous. After the trailer ended, the applause was so loud. African American women are still underappreciated today, and my heart was full being in a room with thousands of women appreciating African American women and acknowledging their struggle.

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After the keynote GHC threw a party, which was pretty fun. I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the party alone for safety reasons. So I met up with other Yahoo Scholars and caught an Uber. During the Uber ride, we talked about our struggles being women in computer science, racial discrimination, and discussed some of the topics we heard at GHC with a different perspective. I felt like we were all best friends, and I really did feel safe to finally talk about my feelings. We all enjoyed it so much that we stayed up talking after midnight. They made me feel empowered. GHC 16 was definitely a great experience.

– By Jackie Robinson
Computer Science, Senior
Women in Computer Science

Preparing for College: Tips from a current student

Get insider tips on how best to prepare for college in this month’s blog post from a current engineering student!

Preparing for College graphic

College is a time you should be excited for. You’re finally on your own, studying what you want, and are actually a part of that student body you watched cheering in Tiger Stadium for so many years. It is a great time in your life, but if you have chosen to be an engineer you should know that going from high school to college is one of the largest (and most important) transitions you can make during your educational career. The saying, “freshman year is the most important year” is a slogan that will be pounded into your head. With the excitement of entering college it may get pushed aside, but the saying could not be more true, and hopefully this post will give some insight to how to best prepare yourself for the year ahead.

The awesome possibility of scheduling classes late in the day so you can sleep hours past that early time you were up every morning for high school is, indeed, awesome. Sleep is great, in fact I guarantee sleep will be more exciting than ever before after one semester, but what’s even better? Great grades and free time all at once…. You’ll learn rather quickly that 24 hours in a day is a lot shorter than you think. Learn NOW how to manage your time to get up early and get your day going soon. Eat a good breakfast, grab some coffee, and start knocking out your homework and studying early. Ideally make it so that you can go to class with your assignments for that day completed, as it is so much easier to focus and get a lot out of class. Plus you’ll have the rest of the day to study more for that upcoming test or get personal errands done.

Speaking of homework, and this may sound profound, but “learn” how to do homework. In engineering, working problems is the best way to learn your material. It is very tempting to google the answers to all your assignments, but learn how to sit down, use the text book, and get the most out of your homework. It will pay off come exam time. Your homework will be difficult at first because it is material you have likely not encountered before, but just take a deep breath and know it will take some time to master everything. So like I mentioned before, learn how to make a schedule throughout the day and make time for getting your homework done.

One habit that you should start doing before you even step foot on campus: to-do lists. It will make everything I’ve mentioned come a lot easier to you. Before you go to bed each night, or when you wake up, make a to-do list of everything you know needs to be completed that day. Prioritize your list, and check off each one as you get it done throughout the day. Not only is this a great way to see what you’re actually accomplishing, but it is a great feeling to check off items on your list.

As I mentioned before, and there is really no way to “prepare” for this, but recognizing that days are a lot shorter than they seem, and that you are busier than you may realize is perhaps the most important advice one can hear. You do not have the time you think you have. Procrastination is deadly and getting a head start on assignments makes life 20 times easier. Everything I have said in this post may come across as pretty obvious tips, but truly understanding that they matter and how to implement them is how one can best prepare for the life of being an engineer. Keeping things like this in mind will allow you to quickly adapt and form your own schedule and ways to be productive. College is a great time and is important to your future. Having great grades early on freshman year is crucial to that experience as class will only get harder with a busier schedule every semester. Hopefully keeping some of these things in mind will maximize your time and education at LSU!

Griffin Selby
Major: Petroleum Engineering
Hometown: Hoover, Alabama
Student Org: AADE

5 Things Student Leaders Learned at the College’s Annual Leadership Training Workshop

In April, more than 80 current and rising student leaders filled the Frank Walk Room for a comprehensive, interactive one-day workshop aimed at preparing the organization leaders for the upcoming academic year.

Communications assistant M.B. Humphrey sat down with associate director of diversity initiatives Sarah Jones to discuss the variety of topics covered by representatives from the STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), the Chevron Leadership Academy, Student Services and the Office of Diversity Initiatives. Read more about the valuable insight students gained below:

Leadership Training

1. What Leadership Is
Joseph Odenwald, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, gave students a thorough breakdown of what leadership is, as well as the several different theories of leadership that may be encountered within group settings. He highlighted the differences between leadership styles of the past, often role-specific and results driven, to more current leadership styles that are change-oriented.

2. What it takes to become a Transformational Leader
Transformational leadership is characterized by the ability to bring about change in an organization by developing a shared vision, values and ideas. Director Emerita of LSU’s Center for Academic Success Saundra McGuire said, “transformational leadership is a requirement for leaders of today.” She added that it is the duty of the leader to trust their team to handle their respective roles, while the leader focuses on the “bigger picture.” She explained the necessity for students to be well rounded not only in leadership, but also academically, and highlighted the resources available in the Center for Academic Success.

3. DISC
STEP manager Adrienne Steele outlined the leadership styles featured in the DISC Assessment, which stands for dominant, influential, steady and conscientious. These four main leadership styles illustrate the practices that are most common within group settings. Steele walked through the characteristics of each group, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Students were then split into groups by their leadership style and discussed areas of improvement among them.

4. Leadership Cultivation Opportunities
Director of the Chevron Center Warren Hull spoke about a new program to the College, the Chevron Leadership Academy. The semester-long program, with a large mentorship component, gives select students the opportunity to cultivate and hone their leadership skills. The program supports it participants in a variety of ways including: an introductory kick-off workshop, monthly leadership seminars and the assignment of an industry mentor. Hull also debunked several leadership myths like, “only extroverts can be leaders.”

5. How to make SMART goals
Sarah Jones and Jada Lewis ended the workshop by teaching students how to perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and how to make “SMART” goals for their organizations, as the students planned for the upcoming year. The SMART acronym—which represents specific, measurable, attainable/actionable, relevant and time-bound— acted as an outline by which the student organization leaders could plan collaborative events and activities with other organizations that shared similar goals and missions

Spring Break is for Learning

This blog post comes from two students who are members of The American Association of Drilling Engineers – Student Section. They shared their learning and growing experiences they had over Spring Break with us!

Most college students are dying for the mid-semester break from class and schoolwork that is dragging them down. The minute students are released for spring break; they are in a hurry to make their way to the beach or head home to catch up with family and friends. This year was drastically different for me. Being over the Gulf Shores scene and consuming one too many adult beverages in the previous years, I decided it was time for me to do something new. Hearing about this great opportunity through the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) to attend a five-day drilling and production camp at the Shell Robert Training and Conference Center, I quickly made plans for my junior year spring break.

Yes, I know it does not sound as much of a great time as spending the week with your friends having fun at the beach; however, I left with no regrets. Making sure I had one of my best friends come along definitely helped, yet I made a lot of new friends. I saw a lot of familiar faces from my classes that I probably would have never gotten to know otherwise. I really enjoyed this year’s spring break at the Shell facility. Although it was never a “break” from schoolwork, the twenty-seven petroleum engineers and I took advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime. From enjoying the amazing food there to utilizing their wonderful facilities, I was in shock at the amount of information I learned over just five days. Moreover, I was surprised by the amount of fun I was having.

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Just to give you a taste of how the Shell camp worked, here is an overview of our daily schedule. Each day consisted of waking up around seven in the morning to catch breakfast before the day started at eight (this was probably my least favorite part). We would then attend an overview of the subject we were learning that day with presentations for the next couple hours from the excellent Shell facilitators. The next part of the day would include splitting up in three groups to work on the different simulators to receive hands on training of the subject we talked about. This part was by far my favorite. We got ourselves into working the high class drilling simulator, subsea simulator, and separation/production trains. And I am talking about a warehouse filled of equipment just like you would see on a floating production platform offshore. Taking a break for lunch we would rotate roles through the different activities ending our day around four thirty.

I cannot express the amount of fun I had with my peers over this great learning experience. It was awesome to learn so much in such a small amount of time from the top industry trainers. I cannot thank AADE enough for giving me this wonderful opportunity! This definitely beat going to the beach for another year.

Written by John Dwyer
Petroleum Engineering
Hometown: Houston, Texas


About three months ago the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) at LSU was approached with the idea of creating an event to bring students out to Shell’s training Facility in Robert, La.

AADE has been involved with annual events in the past like our Wild Well Control course where we send 30 students to Houston for a three day well control certification. But, this new opportunity with Shell was huge for us. Not only were we sending nearly 30 students for a full week of training, but we got an all-inclusive stay plus hands on training at Shell’s state of the art training facility.

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Now, the process to get the camp planned and funded certainly didn’t just happen overnight. Our officers have never taken on a funding project of quite this scale, and there were times that we thought that the training camp just wasn’t going to happen. But, with dedication and hard work from our team, we were able to plan out the course and secure the funding we needed to send all 28 students.

With a game plan in place and the funding accounted for it was time to get ourselves to Robert, La. The five-day course took place over spring break from March 21-25, but we arrived the evening before in order to get a smooth start the following day.

Throughout the five days we went through lectures and hands on training in well control, drilling, sub-sea processing, and surface processing operations. After learning the different simulation software, we were able to work on live troubleshooting scenarios. This is where our members really started to shine – solving real engineering problems. We were also able to get our hands on Shell’s process training equipment which mimics a surface separation facility where oil is separated from water and gas. Students were able to take control of the processing equipment functions to direct various valves and set pressure limits in order to run a smooth separation process.

All in all this was an incredible learning opportunity for our AADE members. With the success of this first trip, we plan to make this an annual event so more students will have access to these world-class facilities that are sitting in our own back yard.

Written by Brendan Marlborough
Petroleum Engineering
Hometown: Westminster, MA
Vice President, AADE at LSU

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