Nabil – A Student Who Became a Mentor

Nabil Dabouz is a busy man. He is a former FIRST Global participant, a software engineering student at the Polytechnic Montreal, and a volunteer with the FIRST Lego League in Canada. However, during the summer of 2018, he took on one more role – that of mentor to Team Algeria. 

Before 2017, Nabil didn’t have much experience with STEM. He participated in a summer English camp, where he was first introduced to technology through its IT Club. After that, he was hooked. When his brother’s friend, the mentor for Team Algeria in 2017, posted on Facebook about team selection, Nabil decided to apply. He was soon accepted to join the FIRST Global family and began training for the event in Washington, D.C.

Upon returning to Algeria after the 2017 Challenge, Nabil continued his momentum by participating in other robotics workshops until the end of the summer. He then started university, having gotten a scholarship to study software engineering in Canada.  

He believes his participation in 2017 helped him develop skills to not only go on to pursue a STEM career, but also to be a STEM leader and pass on what he learned to others.

“The FIRST Global Challenge is an amazing opportunity for us to be part of a global community of young leaders working together for a better tomorrow.”

When Nabil returned to Algeria the summer after his freshman year of university, he went straight to the Algiers STEAM Center. It was the home-base for Team Algeria and had been a second home to him leading up to the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge. He spoke with the program manager and started an internship with the Center, volunteering his time toward creating an Algerian team to compete in Mexico City in 2018. 

He arranged training sessions and selected “semi-finalists” who were trained in basic robotics, Lego Robotics, and coding. From there, Nabil selected the students who made up the final team. The only issue was they didn’t have a mentor yet. 

Nabil held interviews to select a mentor, but couldn’t find a good fit. Eventually the program manager asked Nabil if he’d step up to fill the role. At first, Nabil was concerned he wouldn’t be able to be responsible for the team, or that the team wouldn’t be as good under his mentorship as it could be. However, he also knew that without a mentor the team couldn’t participate, so he agreed.

Of course being a mentor wasn’t without its challenges. There were some days where Nabil struggled to explain to the new students that his team had tried certain designs and ideas the year before and they had not worked. Being only a few years older than the students he was mentoring, some of them were unsurprisingly hesitant to accept his suggestions, but they eventually came around. 

The team went on to win the silver medal for the Sofia Kovalevskaya Award for International Journey.

Nabil credits his success in mentorship to the skills he gained from his own participation in 2017. Not only did he learn technical skills, but also leadership, communication, how to work as part of a team, and critical thinking. He believes that STEM skills are absolutely necessary, but soft skills have a much broader range of application, and with the two combined together, make the FIRST Global experience truly unique.

Considering the impact the FIRST Global Challenge has had on his life, Nabil is determined to further the reach of STEM initiatives to more kids.

“We have been inspired by FIRST Global, so we are inspiring our youth to pursue their STEM passion and to aim for changing the world,” he said.