Laura Cochrane at MAKE interviewed roboticist Annika O’Brien and her young mentee about their experiences together. Their story speaks to the essential role of mentoring in the STEM fields, especially for young women:
Coco Kaleel, the mentee:
Soldering! Really, that’s how it all started with us. Soldering usually helps connect an electrical component to a circuit board and that connection allows current to pass through, completing the circuit. For me, the skill of soldering connected me to someone really special — and much, much more.
Greetings! I am Coco and I’m 12 years old. As far back as I can remember, I loved to make things. When I was three I built a hand-cranked carousel with a flywheel and gear pattern from Tinker Toys for my stuffed animals. I later got into Legos and have loved them ever since.
When I was around 8, I got a set of Lego Mindstorms, and that’s really when I started to get into electronics. The Mindstorms were really cool, but I wanted more flexibility. That lead me to the Arduino. I learned a little about programming it on the Adafruit Learning System tutorials. However, everything really changed when I went to the LA Robotics Club and met Annika O’Brien (who is currently Chief Roboticist and CTO at STEAMtrax).
Annika is the founder of the club, which now has over 1,800 members. I didn’t really plan on Annika becoming my mentor, but that’s what happened. It all started, though, because of soldering. I showed up at Annika’s first soldering class at the LA Robotics Club. Annika went through all the steps with me, the safety protocol … and I loved it!
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