FIRST Robotics Mentors Inspire Kids to Think Like Engineers
In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are recognizing five outstanding employees from across the company who exemplify what being a FIRST mentor is all about.
Each year, more than 150 employees from across Pratt & Whitney and United Technologies Corp. volunteer with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization, which exposes students K–12 to STEM education through mentor-based programs that foster innovation, communication, and leadership. As FIRST mentors, volunteers lead teams from the U.S. and Canada that compete annually throughout a six-week competition circuit culminating in a World Championship in April.
Tim McAlice, discipline chief, Mechanical Design in Hot Section Engineering, has been with Pratt & Whitney for more than 30 years. After eight years as a FIRST mentor with MARS Team 1523, he believes that being a mentor involves teaching students how to design, build and compete with their robot, as well as providing guidance and support along the way to help them grow.
McAlice started as a mentor with MARS Team 1523 when his son, Matthew, joined the team his freshman year at Jupiter High School, in Jupiter, Florida, back in 2009. More than 50 percent of students he has mentored over the years are now pursuing careers in STEM-related fields, including his son, who will be graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in May.
William Bishop, a powerplant engineer at the Pratt & Whitney Columbus Engine Center, is an advocate for STEM education and strong believer in the FIRST organization.
Bishop has been volunteering with FIRST for the majority of his time at Pratt & Whitney. Last year, he mentored the local Columbus robotics team and was a judge for the FIRST Robotics District Stronghold Competition in Columbus, Georgia. This year he volunteered as a judge for the FIRST Robotics District Steamworks Competition in Columbus.
He joined Pratt & Whitney in 2014 as a production engineer working on the V2500 and currently works on the PW1100G-JM and PW1500G engines. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and is currently pursuing his MBA from Emory University through UTC's Employee Scholar Program.
Carlos Calixtro, a mechanical design engineer in Hot Section Engineering, has been volunteering with FIRST Robotics before he even started his career at Pratt & Whitney. Prior to joining Pratt & Whitney, he mentored two middle school teams in Cincinnati, Ohio, during their first year in the FIRST Lego League. In 2015, after joining Pratt & Whitney, he joined team MARS 1523 as a mentor. He loves seeing the students work through the FIRST challenges and their feeling of accomplishment after they solve problems. Seeing that spark and enjoyment to problem solve reminds him of why he wanted to be an engineer.
Calixtro is currently in his second year working with Pratt & Whitney as part of the Founder's Engineering Development Program, following his graduation from Georgia Tech with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in May 2015.
Amanda Varricchio, a ground test engineer, is in her sixth season volunteering as a FIRST mentor with the Team 3654 "TechTigers" from Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut.
This year Varricchio and her team were part of the winning alliance at the FIRST Waterbury District Event which earned them their first blue banner in team history. The win and their performance at the Hartford District Event earned them enough points to qualify for the New England District Championship for the first time.
Carlos Rodriguez, a control system engineer at Pratt & Whitney Canada, has been volunteering as a mentor with FIRST Robotics since 2014. Rodriguez manages all aspects of the team, ranging from activity planning and coordination, to organizing the student and mentor teams and guiding the students throughout the robot development process.
Team 3532 was established in 2011 at Mgr A-M Parent High School in St-Hubert, Québec, and encourages students, through FIRST Québec and Fusion Jeunesse, to get involved with robotics activities as a means of promoting STEM education.
UTC has supported FIRST's programs since 1995, totaling at least $8.5 million in total team and event support.