LSU ME Student Secures $13K Grant for Robotics Mentoring

Brett Dupree using tools on robot.BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU Mechanical Engineering student Brett Dupree may only be a junior when school starts in August, but he is already setting the bar high for what a leader should be.

As co-chair of the College of Engineering’s Society of Peer Mentors Robotics Mentoring team, he recently secured a $13,000 grant from Dow Chemical to help teach robotics to high school students who could one day become LSU Engineers.

The Robotics Mentors lead regional elementary, middle and high school teams in FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC), the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and VEX robotics, helping them become more involved in various technological fields.

“The whole spirit of FIRST Robotics is ‘coopertition,’” said Dupree, a native of Baton Rouge. “It’s competition, but they want teams to work together. I want to help facilitate that.”

Dupree noticed that the Robotics Mentoring Program’s funds were about to run out and took the initiative to find a way to replenish the coffers. Through his co-op with Dow, he learned about the company’s involvement with mentoring and conveyed SPM’s need for financial support to continue and improve its Robotics Mentoring Program. With encouragement and help from SPM Staff Advisor Adrienne Steele, SPM President April Gaydos, and SPM Robotics Co-Chair Krista Scafidel, Dupree presented his idea to Dow STEM and Solutions Manager Dawn Saucier.

“I set up a meeting with [Saucier] to discuss what I wanted to do,” Dupree said. “She thought it was a great idea. We walked in there with very similar ideas as to what we wanted out of the meeting. She pointed me in the right direction and sent me a link to apply for a grant for STEM-related activities.”

“SPM has a history of encouraging students to do things like this,” Steele said. “It’s in the culture of our organization that if students have ideas and want to pursue them, we are here to support them. In fact, we encourage them and want them to do it. Brett knew this is something he wanted to do. He’s a go-getter.”

The $13,000 grant helps pay for 10 LSU mentors who will work 20 hours a week per semester teaching high school students the necessary skills to build a robot. LSU will send two mentors to five high schools that Dow has previously worked with—Brusly, Port Allen, MSA East, MSA West and Plaquemine. The rest of the grant money will go toward SPM’s one-day professional development workshop on Sept. 15, where teams will meet and work together on the different aspects of building a robot.

“The workshop will cover conflict resolution in the team and team-building skills,” Steele said. “It’s not so much about the technology of a robot, but how to have a well-functioning team.”

“It’s a great way for teams to meet each other and see who else is out there in their area,” Dupree said. “On top of that, it’s an opportunity for us to send mentors to schools that Dow works with in our area to expand LSU’s Robotic Mentoring Program.”

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Contact: Libby Haydel

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