Teacher, mentor, friend, leader; These words describe Pearce High School Robotics coach Robert Acosta quite well and so do: dedicated, patient, and intelligent.
Our names our Joshua and Caleb Slinkard, and we have had the pleasure and honor of working with Robert on several robots for FIRST, BEST and GEAR. Many a Saturday afternoon has been sent planning and constructing robots in his garage, with classic rock music in the background. Where as some coaches consider robotics a once-a-year commitment, Robert Acosta is dedicated year round to advancing robotics in all age groups.
Robotics season begins in January, when F.I.R.S.T kicks off its yearly competition. And while this will be J.J. Pearce’s first year in FIRST, Robert has worked with two different teams for a combined 7 years. While free week-ends and extra garage space are sacrificed for the good of the team, Robert maintains a clear focus on what is the true meaning of FIRST: to inspire students into pursuing careers in science or technology.
But FIRST is by no-means the end of the Robotics season. GEAR (Getting Excited about Robotics) is a robotics competition (similar to FLL) for elementary school students founded by Robert. The reason for GEAR’s creation was the need for an elementary school competition in the Dallas area. A steady increase in growth demonstrates the competition’s effectiveness: over the years GEAR has grown from a 4 team, one regional competition in 2002 to a 25 team competition in 2005, to a 4-regional competition in 2006.
After the GEAR season is over in April Robert gets a well-earned break, but not for long. Come September he prepares for the BEST robotics competition, in which he coaches two teams, one of which we are a part. During our 3 years under Robert we have never seen him display anger or impatience, instead focusing not on how well his teams do but on how much they learn. He also makes sure we all have a little fun as well. Once BEST is over, Robert turns his attention to the Dallas FIRST Lego League competition, where he has volunteers as the emcee, score keeper, and student volunteer coordinator for the event.
While the focus of the teams may be learning, the teams he has been a part of have had their fair share of accomplishments:
FIRST Robotics Competition
2000 1st Place winner - Lone Star Regional (team 437)
2001 3rd Place winner - Lone Star Regional (team 437)
2004 Rookie Inspiration Award - Midwest Regional (Team 1296) AutoDesk Visionary Award - Lone Star Regional (Team 1296)
2005 Team Spirit Award - Lone Star Regional (Team 1296)
But Robert’s promotion of robotics does not end with the competitions he enters. In 2001 he demonstrated FIRST robots during Texas Technology Week at Six Flags; in 2004 he demonstrated BEST robots at during the Girls’ Math and Science camp held at SMU; in 2005 he demonstrated FIRST,FLL, and VEX robots at the NBC 5 Home and Lifestyles Expo in Dallas; he also coordinated a fundraiser night and Lego Mindstorm Robots demonstration at Chuck’s Burgers in Dallas and demonstrated VEX robots during the Kids’ Day America (local child ID program) event at Parker College.
That’s a lot of commitment for a man with a family and full-time job, but Robert sees the importance of teaching today’s youth how engineering and science help shape the world we live in. We write this to salute a man who has inspired not only us but dozens of students to get involved in science and technology.