Most aren’t willing to accept the challenge of starting an FRC team, but Andrew Hartnett(AJ) did, enthusiastically becoming the head mentor in a school district with little FIRST experience. He makes his passion for FIRST and STEM contagious by ensuring we are engaged and have opportunities to accomplish our goals. He built not just a robotics team, but a family. He built our family by connecting with us via interviews. Each season, AJ interviews the entire team to ensure he knows our interests. After competition, AJ interviews us again to hear suggested improvements. AJ has broadened the reach of FRC locally and globally, driving us to develop FIRST infrastructure. AJ hosts a yearly kickoff, and ensures younger teams attend to prepare for the season. He hosts other teams on our Slack, participated in Robots in the Outback, and developed a Week 2 pre-inspection, filling needs disclosed by other mentors. AJ supports our creation of a girl’s STEM magazine, an app for kids in hospitals, networking events, and emphasizes inclusion for all.
AJ expanded FIRST by establishing a pipeline. Pearland ISD superintendent Dr. John Kelly said “ The Pearland ISD Robotics program, and in particular Pearadox, owes more to one man – Andrew Hartnett – than to any other person or funding source. Because of the inspiration and genius he has provided, robotics is now expanding from high school into a K-12 initiative within our district – affecting the lives of hundreds of students. ” AJ’s desire for these programs to be successful led to a culture of peer mentoring.
AJ’s passion for FIRST is contagious. 148’s JVN said “In getting to know Andrew’s students you immediately understand two things: they LOVE him, and they LOVE FIRST because of him. I’m envious of his ability to inspire that sort of passion in his students, and instill those values as a core of his team.” AJ believes in “hands off” mentoring: focusing on our goals and ensuring our participation and accountability.
AJ’s support for us outside FIRST, as an engineer, instills STEM concept teaching and enthusiasm. His excitement inspired several of us to pursue similar career paths: 2 juniors interned under him at JSC and an alum applied for a NASA Co-op. Because of what she learned from AJ, she received a fall Co-op position.
AJ communicates the importance of being a well rounded team, so students interested in any field can build skills. He develops communication skills by providing unique speaking opportunities with: astronauts, ABC13, JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, congressmen, the mayor, our school board, and CEOs.
AJ began mentoring in 2006 and has spent 44% of his life as a FIRST mentor. The team he created has reached over 320,000 people. The best way to summarize AJ’s impact is with a parent quote “Many people have skills to share with kids and can teach them to build a robot. However, few have the heart and ability to create such confident leaders, which is why he deserves the Woodie Flowers Award”