East West

How does a microwave work? How are Russian films different from American films? What speed of movement can the eye detect? What gauge wire should I use? No matter what content a question holds, Al Skierkiewicz, a useful resource for information, is always there with a thorough and spirited response. Whether a student has a question, or just needs to talk, Al voluntarily listens. 

Al has always been a true friend to every student, especially those on Team 111. When speed bumps appear throughout the build season, he prompts us to solve the problems we face together. For example, when asked which path a wire should take, Al points out the pros and cons of each option, and asks the team which path is best. A few months before kickoff, Al was already familiarizing students with how to use electrical tools properly, to prepare us for the build season. When the mechanical subteam works on the robot, leaving electrical empty-handed, Al always encourages the electrical members to offer assistance to mechanical students. 

The respect Al has for students is obvious when he interacts with them during competitions. In 2004, team 1365’s robot was destroyed during shipping. Al prompted WildStang students to help them successfully repair their robot. While inspecting, Al enjoys listening to students explain their robots to him, showing him how much they have learned. He looks forward to hearing answers from the students, not the mentors, when he asks questions. 

“After working with Al for two and a half years, I have witnessed his greatest strength firsthand time and again. It is not as an engineer, nor as a judge. While he is talented in both pursuits, his greatest ability is that of a teacher, and I believe that to be the highest compliment of all,” expresses Herb Regan, Team 1525 mentor. While some teachers tend to bore students to tears, Al injects fun and excitement into learning. When students don’t feel motivated, Al steps in with encouraging advice. Last spring, senior Conor Delaney felt indifferent about applying to college. Using his personal experiences, Al explained the benefits of a college education to Conor, and inspired fellow senior Kate Thompson to assist Conor with writing his personal statement. Today, both Kate and Conor are freshmen at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Al’s inspiring attitude sparks a positive outlook among those around him. 

Al dedicates much of his time and energy to advancing FIRST programs. Fellow FLL mentor Bennett Nelson states, “I am most impressed with how [Al] interacts with the kids…he works individually with the students the whole time he is [at a meeting].” At the New Hampshire Kickoff Event this year, Al presented a rookie electrical design workshop. Al is seeking mentorship for Chicago team 2381 and Minnesota team 2503. Just this fall, Al addressed about 30 Shure Inc. employees, in hopes of gaining new sponsors, mentors, and volunteers for the FIRST community. Al is working with representatives from DEKA and FIRST to help create videos and checklists to train new inspectors. Wherever he goes, Al is determined to spread the word of FIRST, including schools, work, or even church. 

Al transforms kids into thinkers, entrepreneurs, and confident individuals by making sure students know that schoolwork is always the first priority. During finals week in mid-January, Al commonly sends students home from a robotics meeting early to study. Communicating with students and teams all around, Al is the battery that powers the spirit and energy of FIRST. Earning this award would give Al the recognition he deserves.