Future mentors learned to come up with strategies to win a game.

Robotics competition, the biggest event in the PiE calendar, has been getting closer and closer. It is only weeks before the competition. To better prepare the participants for the competition, PiE created RC DeCal Spring 2015. Two weeks ago, Justin Jorge, who is the project manager for RC DeCal Spring 2015, enthusiastically shared some details about RC DeCal this year.

The RC DeCal team, which consists of five PiE staff, is responsible for training Cal students to be mentors for the high school students participating in PiE’s robotic competition in April 2015. With Justin’s background as a former participant in the robotics competition as well as a staff member of RC DeCal last year, he’s full of excellent ideas! Working together with his team, they came up with some plans for the DeCal.

According to the plan, the DeCal team will teach the soon-to-be mentors - who will be working with the students - about game analysis, mechanical, and autonomous programming. In addition to lectures, two main ways the team prepares the mentors are through engaging activities and hands-on experience. Justin also emphasized that the skills needed to be a good mentor and work well with students are not just technical skills. Mentors need to be able to work in a team, communicate well with high school students, and have a tremendous amount of patience. The mentors are also trained to push students to find the answers to their own problems instead of giving away the answers to the students. Furthermore, the DeCal team guides the future mentors to improve their confidence and leadership skills such that they can assist high school students even after their time in PiE.

Kevin Durand, a returning mentor for RC DeCal Spring 2015, shared some positive comments about his experiences with RC DeCal. He said that his interest in mentoring made him always want to come back to RC DeCal. He found it enjoyable as well as rewarding to mentor high school students with their brilliant and creative ideas. Moreover, becoming a mentor in RC DeCal allowed him to learn about many new, interesting things and eventually helped him decide his current major. Based on his comments, it can be seen how great the impact of RC DeCal is; the mentors and high school students can simultaneously improve each other in many ways.

To appeal to as many Cal students as possible from a variety of majors, the PiE team actively spread the word about the DeCal. We’ve worked really hard to promote RC DeCal through social media, DeCal expo, Calapalooza, chalking, and flyers. This year, the DeCal gathered up to 78 mentors in the first week, one of the highest turnout rates we’ve had!

The first meeting was great because the class was fully occupied. In the meeting, the soon-to-be mentors broke into groups to learn about game analysis. In the game CanHaz CheezBurger, the mentors had to pick a robot to play with and try to earn as high score as possible. While aiming for a high score, they had to take into account the penalties and come up with some key strategies. At the end of the activity, the groups had to compete against each other to find out which group had the best strategy. This activity would prepare the mentors in terms of critical thinking skills and brainstorming needed when they work with the high school students in the actual competition.

Four weeks after learning the basics and going through relevant activities, the mentors will be assigned to 24 different teams participating in the competition. If the number of mentors can be maintained throughout, there will be about 2 to 3 mentors per team. They will be paired based on their expertise such that they can complement each other while assisting the students.

Though RC DeCal has been going great so far, support and help, particularly from PiE staff, will be much appreciated. So, let’s contribute to the success of RC DeCal together. Finally, for the RC DeCal team, keep up the good work and good luck!