Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Having known our team’s mentor, I must agree. To Team 1114’s mentor, Karthik Kanagasabapathy, no accomplishment is as great as inspiring youth and I can assure you, it is in credit to his endless enthusiasm.
Karthik has spent the past 7 years mentoring Canadian FIRST teams, has been with Team 1114 since the fall of 2003 and is concurrently mentoring Teams 1503 and 1680 in the Niagara First partnership. He is deeply immersed in FIRST. The recent honoree of Chief Delphi’s Unsung First Hero Award is on the 2005 Waterloo Regional Planning committee and has traveled to FIRST headquarters in New Hampshire, desiring to further the expansion of FIRST in Canada. Along with Ian Mackenzie, Karthik recently completed instructing a 6-seminar series on the basics of running a FIRST team and constructing a robot. Due to the success of these seminars, he and Ian will be presenting one in the FIRST Robotics Conference in Atlanta on Championship weekend. Concerning Karthik’s contributions to FIRST, Andy Baker, 2003 National Woodie Flowers Award winner, commented that Karthik has “done much for not just FIRST in Canada, but the entire FIRST community.” As much as Karthik has volunteered throughout the FIRST community, some of his greatest achievements can be seen in his unfailing commitment to mentoring Team 1114.
In the time Karthik has spent with us, he has strengthened our team immeasurably. Most markedly, students have taken note of his tireless dedication to working on the robot and team strategy and have followed his example. His attention to detail shows in everything he does. Karthik not only encourages students to be part of the team and work cooperatively, but he makes the learning experience fun. Most students do not realize they are being taught because they enjoy seeing the “cool” side of engineering. Even when differences arise between students or mentors, Karthik is there to ease tensions and help resolve the issues at hand.
The most important ability for a mentor to possess is the ability to communicate effectively with the team throughout the season; Karthik never misses a chance to interact with the students and teach. For example, he held a mock-brainstorming session with Team 1114 to break down a past FIRST game to further understanding of strategy. He also used his knowledge of mathematics to teach lessons on the physics of the “Swerve” drive, instructing patiently and clearly. Karthik always explains why things are being done a certain way and encourages students to ask questions to improve their knowledge of design and strategy. Karthik makes each student an informed and active participant. Rather than saying “This is what we’re doing, and that’s final,” Karthik pushes students to be creative, asking them to explain how something works and offer their own suggestions as to how things could be done differently.
Karthik takes his role as a mentor seriously, but extends it further than robotics lessons and team building. Karthik takes time to connect individually with the students on our team and act as a role model to all. Mentorship is not just about FIRST with Karthik, but about all facets of life. He is someone students can come to for advice and someone students can look up to. Karthik is an example of how passion and drive can help a person become a positive influence on others. Because of this, Karthik’s time with Team 1114 has been invaluable. It is his enthusiasm for connecting with youth and bringing FIRST to life for each student that makes him such a fantastic mentor. He pushes everyone to do their best and work together towards common goals, constantly inspiring Team 1114 to improve as a group and as individuals. Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm… and what Karthik has done for Team 1114 is no exception.