It’s funny how hard it seems sometimes to find a mentor, and yet this one just dropped in my lap! I saw a completely random posting for a math tutor online after debating trying other options to find a tutor, and after reading the short ‘about’ blurb for the tutor, contacted him and point-blank asked: “would you be willing to work with my six-year-old?”
The poor guy probably had no idea what he was getting into!
It turned out that this math tutor is an engineering student at a local university. He was offering math tutoring services for middle school and high school math, but I asked if he would be willing to work on engineering-related stuff with the Engineer. Which, by the way, looks a lot like playing. He even told me once that he feels guilty about us paying him because he just comes and plays!
And they don’t just play – they play with some really cool stuff. The Engineer won a <a href="http://Sphero SPRK+ STEAM Educational Robot“>Sphero robot in a contest from a STEM event a few weeks ago (we’re still in shock, while he’s smugly confident.) The Sphero has 2 main apps for it: one is for coding, and one is for playing cool games with the bot. It’s a great learning tool, and we’ve been practicing coding with the Engineer.
They’ve also done things like build Lego machines with our gear set, they’ve played some of our educational games, and even built a cross-section of a cathedral with Legos. The Lego orrery is slated for the next project, but the robot took precedence.
For the purposes of privacy, we’ll call this mentor Heron (after the Greek engineer from Alexandria who came up with automatic doors, among other things.) After Heron’s first visit, I knew this was going to work. They worked well together, although I could tell Heron was a bit nervous because this was an unknown situation with an unpredictable little kid. But, he told me that the Engineer reminded him a lot of himself as a child, “but he’s smarter!”
That gifted radar that I seem to have was going off, so I’m pretty sure that Heron is as smart or smarter than the Engineer. Heron didn’t advertise this little fact, but he was also homeschooled and his mom is a teacher. I’m betting that he’s planning to go into the teaching field at some point, and he’s using his tutor work to get experience. Heron seems to be quite smart and level-headed for a young college student!
I’m super happy about this situation. I’m fine with paying Heron his requested fee because he’s one of the first people who actually ‘gets’ the Engineer outside of our family. He understands the extreme need to build and create, and the wonderful experience of building an actual, working machine from Legos. He was excited about the robot too, and he’s interested in the same things that the Engineer is. It doesn’t matter that there’s at least a 13 year age gap between them – they speak the same language.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what on earth this image has to do with finding a mentor. The Engineer wants to build a remote-controlled snake. He excitedly told me all about his plans, and I asked him “what’s the first step?” He smiled and ran to the paper bin. “Draw a diagram!” And he did. He didn’t just draw it, he meticulously decorated it, detailed the segments and wheels, and showed the profile of the head. I smile just looking at it because he’s obviously learning: he even got the snake pupil correct for a venomous snake.
Next step – a prototype model that moves. We’ll work on the sensors and remote controls later. I’m totally dumping this project on Heron, because I have no idea how to create a segmented snake model with wheels!
Here’s hoping that this is the beginning of a wonderful long-term relationship with a mentor for the Engineer. At the least, he gets to work with a like-minded individual. At best, he builds a long-term relationship with someone who can help guide his engineer abilities while demonstrating a way to use them. Either way, it’s a good experience. I’m happy!