Stafford-based Associate Jason Stern was awarded the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, celebrating his outstanding communication skills as a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) mentor.
FIRST designs innovative, competition-based programs to motivate young people to develop science, math, critical thinking, and leadership skills. As part of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) process, mentors offer a guiding hand to students while they complete a product development cycle including concept development, rapid prototyping, and fabricating a robot to achieve a defined mission. This award recognizes Stern for his ability to turn complex engineering concepts into simplified bites of information that students can apply to a real-life situation.
The Woodie Flowers award is unique because high school students on FRC teams are the nominators. They select one mentor who led, inspired, and empowered them to be a better team. Stern’s team, AIM Team 1123 jumped at the chance to recognize Stern.
“During the high-energy competition environment, Jason maintains focus and has a presence of mind that helps us calmly find answers and potential solutions,” says a member of Team 1123. “When we are stuck or have a problem, he is like a mantra in our head…What can I do? What can I try? He taught us to start with the basics and walk through the process.”
Stern was initially drawn to Team 1123 because of their diversity. They are a community-based team that serves home, private and public school students. In addition to their homeschooled base, they had students from five different high schools. Without the formal structure and resources of a school system, it takes guidance from mentors like Stern to keep the team intact. Stern was homeschooled too, but never had access to compete in FIRST as a student.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to give back to the community and do what I can to ensure every kid, no matter what kind of schooling they receive, has an opportunity to participate in hands-on educational programs like FIRST,” Stern says.
Stern currently works as an Electrical Engineer within Booz Allen’s Mission Analytics Center of Excellence. “We look at Jason and think, if he can do it, I can too,” say members of Team 1123. “In everything he does, he communicates that we are important,” they said. “He removes the barriers between mentors and students – he is what we aspire to be.”
As a sponsor of FIRST, Booz Allen provides grants to teams that are mentored by employees. For more information, visit www.usfirst.org or e-mail the Booz Allen FIRST Community Partnerships team at firstname.lastname@example.org.