“It’s sad…Mr. Mainieri doesn’t have a life. We make fun of him a lot for that. But, we all have deep respect for him,” said Giang Pham, a Team 812 student. Mr. Mainieri has gained this deep-found respect from his students by promoting engineering, teaching with innovative techniques, and instilling the importance of teamwork at the Preuss School.
In his third year at Preuss, Mr. Mainieri has brought FIRST, engineering, and math to its peak. Now, 13% of the high school student body participates in FIRST and 50 students take a class in either Introduction to Engineering or Principles of Engineering. The mania has even spread into the middle school as Mr. Mainieri’s efforts have started a FLL team, mentored by Team 812, and a LEGO Robotics class for sixth graders.
Besides bringing the culture of FIRST to its height at Preuss, Mr. Mainieri is an effective teacher with his own unique teaching style. His technique gives students the basic concepts and then pushes them to discover ideas beyond the classroom environment. He takes engineering ideas, such as the physics theories surrounding the EduRobot and breaks them down so that the students can understand them. For the robotics program, rather than teaching all the concepts himself, Mr. Mainieri works hard to give the participants access to experts in the engineering field. Because of this, students are able to work with real-life engineers and gain knowledge through another person’s perspective. Through Mr. Mainieri’s persistent effort, Team 812 now has twelve engineers. He has taught the students that learning doesn’t just happen during school hours but at all times and in many different ways.
Another skill that students have leaned from Mr. Mainieri is the importance of teamwork. From the conception of Team 812, he created subgroups covering each area necessary for a successful FIRST program. He established two main groups, business and engineering, with subgroups for each. Under Mr. Mainieri’s guidance, all these subgroups are able to communicate with one another constantly throughout the process, working with each other to ensure the robot and everything else is done successfully. Students see from this process how crucial teamwork is in order to accomplish any task.
Ultimately, a team is made of individuals and each individual of Team 812 can attest to the impact that Mr. Mainieri has had on their lives. Six hundred words is not sufficient to account for the stories of all those involved with the program. But here are a few: Julian Hernandez struggled for three years at Preuss before joining robotics. Afterwards, not only did he become engaged in school but his grades improved, his self-esteem increased, and he is now a leader on the robotics team. The 27 girls on the team, who are excited about engineering, could also tell many stories. Brigitte Rubidoux puts it best when she says, “Robotics is fun!” Mr. Mainieri inspires girls at Preuss to pursue engineering despite the stereotypes. He also helps the students use their imaginations. Vu Hong remembers a time when the team lacked the tools needed to build the robot so he encouraged them to be creative and substitute other mechanisms. He has also shown them how to use the resources of the community and other schools when Preuss cannot provide for the needs of the team. A Preuss teacher sums it up when she says, “Mr. Mainieri has created a spirit of teamwork, cooperation, and enthusiasm for the school that did not exist here. He basically began a tradition of first-class involvement that will serve as a model for generations of Preuss students to follow.”