For the last two school years, Norco Elementary’s newer robotics club, known as the EagleBots, has paired up with the senior captain of Destrehan High School’s (DHS) Wildcat Robotics club, Sean Baltazar, helping train the parish’s next generation of youth robotics champions.
As a member of the DHS Wildcat Robotics, Baltazar’s team has become a formidable competitive robotics team in Gulf South regional competitions, consistently winning various awards and placing in numerous robotics contests.
Both Baltazar and the EagleBots have teamed up this year as the Norco Elementary team begins preparation for a major qualifying tournament soon to be held on December 9 at Hahnville High School, drawing robotics teams from around the state.
Norco Elementary teacher and EagleBots sponsor Dawn Gill said Baltazar was a natural fit as a mentor for their team. As team sponsor, Gill has had a front row seat observing the senior teach and inspire robotics amongst his younger Norco Elementary mentees.
“If you saw him in action, you would understand – he loves the whole idea of robotics competition; he loves all of it,” Gill said. “It rubs off on everybody around him, the enthusiasm he has for [robotics].”
For Baltazar, who first began robotics competitions in middle school, the Norco Elementary partnership has been a way for him to give back. The senior said he was once the beneficiary of similar mentorships as a beginning robotics student, and had his own mentors pass knowledge down to him when he first began robotics through summer camps and various programs. He felt the need to help Norco Elementary students learn the basics just as others taught him years ago.
“The opportunity for me to be able to help mentor and guide the next generation of STEM learners and people interested in robotics, it kind of brings full circle my experience in robotics,”
Baltazar said. “It really is fulfilling in that I’m able to lead these kids and help Ms. Gill – hopefully to victory – and if not, at least to higher learning and a gaining of knowledge.”
The elementary and high school robotics club collaboration began last year when Gill became the elementary school’s new competitive robotics club’s sponsor. Having had limited prior robotics experience, she began devising ways to get training for herself and her team, and immediately thought of contacting DHS, which has one of the state’s most accomplished robotic teams.
“We had a Lego League before, but we never had a competition robotics team, especially in the elementary level, and my co-chair and I decided what better thing to do than to call on somebody who has had experience,” Gill said.
Gill was able to connect with Baltazar who expressed an interest in mentoring younger children, and the mentorship program began shortly afterward. As a junior, Baltazar helped the new elementary robotics club organize functions within the team, assigning individual roles to each EagleBots team member like coders and builders, and coaching them through the design and testing process of building a functional robot.
“Sean has been with robotics and doing robotics since he was in middle school, so he has a definite love for this,” Gill said. “He’s making time for these kids…it’s been phenomenal.”
With DHS senior Baltazar leaving for college next year – he plans to major in engineering – he has already begun implementing a succession plan for the mentorship. He is currently in the process of lining up and training a new DHS robotics mentor for Norco Elementary to take over once he graduates, ensuring the mentorship program lives on once his time at DHS ends.
“I’m bringing [along] a junior with me, Benjamin Zeringue, because he’s one of the best juniors on my team,” Baltazar said. “So that way whenever I graduate, he can keep it going, because I don’t want this program to just be a ‘me’ thing – I want it to be a [DHS Wildcat Robotics] team thing.”