Volunteer Spotlight: Tuxedo Pandas

The Tuxedo Pandas — a high school robotics team from the United States led by Isabelle and Franky Marchand — not only helped out during the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge in Washington, D.C. but they also advised not one, but two FIRST Global teams through the Global STEM Corps (GSC).

“Prior to the event, we helped mentor teams from two nations: Namibia and Burundi. We faced several challenges due to logistics and lack of prior knowledge.  Online chat allowed us to reach them somewhat easily, but translation was still an issue. Although Namibia spoke fluent English, Burundi spoke only French.  One of our team members, Chloe Marchand, and her father, our head coach, Franky Marchand, are able to speak French fluently.  However, we still had to funnel every word through a translator. Over the course of about 4 months, we discussed the several fundamentals of robotics:  building and programming, to name a few. Building and programming with FIRST Global were new to both us and the teams we were mentoring. We’d never previously worked with the REV kit, electronics, or programming software, so we had to practice and prepare before each video session. Over time, we improved; us with teaching and our knowledge, them with their understanding of REV and its complexities. As the time came for the competition, we were all accordingly prepared.

The event functioned similarly to most FIRST competitions;  although, since many teams didn’t speak English, we helped translate.  As expected, it was packed;  teams representing 157 countries and 6 continents were in attendance, along with many event staff.  Nevertheless, everyone in attendance was extremely happy to be there.

During the event, we filled several jobs:  team ambassador, practice field manager, field queuer, field re-setter, field assistant, pit admin, etc.  As team ambassadors, we helped escort our teams around the center and translated when necessary.  Because of this, we tended to interact the most with our designated teams.  As practice field managers, we queued various teams for the practice fields.  During that, we communicated with each team multiple times.  The variation in the type of interaction gave us a more rounded experience.

FIRST Global gave us the opportunity to make a difference in the world, not just locally, but halfway around the world.  We were able to meet people from all across the globe and learn about their lives.  We’re lucky to have been able to help our teams, and we hope to do so again next year!”