“I met a man with a dollar, we exchanged dollars and each of us left with a dollar. I met a man with an idea, we exchanged ideas, and each of us left with two ideas.”
This encompasses who Al Skierkiewicz is. He transforms kids into thinkers, future entrepreneurs, and confident individuals. Al has seen the evolution FIRST and WildStang Robotics since it started ten years ago when both of his children were on the team. His children have moved onto college and beyond but Al has stayed with WildStang. His paternal instincts show especially during finals week when he insists we go home early to study. His initial effort as an involved parent has expanded over the years to being a co-leader of the electrical team and mentor to many students on the robotics team. His career also pertains to electronics. He works at WTTW-TV as a Maintenance & Design Engineer. While all FIRST mentors are devoted to their own teams, Al’s contributions to the FIRST community are truly unparalleled. He never grows weary of giving advice and answering questions.
Al is recognized as a pioneer on the Chief Delphi website giving electrical input to any team who requests it. “…his contributions to this forum are incredible. He is one of those people you can always trust to post something good. We need more Al’s on here [Chief Delphi] and certainly more in this program.” John Vielkind-Neun Team #0229. As testament to his volunteerism to FIRST, Al was honored with the "Unsung Hero Award" through the Chief Delphi website fall of 2004. Al is also a mentor to FIRST Robotics online and local rookie teams and FIRST Lego League teams.
In times of crisis Al does not hesitate to help, for example, at the Midwest Regional 2004 when Team #1365’s robot was destroyed during shipment he led willing students who worked endlessly to recreate a working robot. At the National Championships this April, Al will present about electrical components to FIRST teams. In addition, he walks through the pits at competitions looking for anyone who could use a hand. He also works an inspector at the Midwest Regional and National Championship.
Down time for Al consists of many side lessons, continuously educating us about random useful facts. For example, how Las Vegas came to be, and the difference between electric powered turbines and hydro powered energy. Electrical team member Tiffany Gach stated, “He has helped me with everything from electrical to life lessons. He listens to how we are doing in school, he helps us with questions we have both in robotics and our lives.”
This year he has helped new members become acquainted with electrical components. He taught us the importance of soldering speed controllers and circuit boards correctly and safely, so we can work independently. While mechanical works on the robot, leaving electrical empty handed, Al takes the initiative to teach us new concepts such as digital and analog input on a white board. He draws detailed diagrams and graphs until every student grasps the idea. He keeps us on task by teaching us time management to meet our deadlines before ship date.
“From the very beginning Al has made us feel comfortable. He acknowledges everyone’s presence and he answers all of our questions. He treats everyone as an equal. He makes Electrical team fun!" exclaimed student Roxanna Vigil about Al's enthusiasm. It’s evident for us, the students, that Al's greatest pleasure comes from seeing the impact he has on not only WildStang students but on all students and mentors of the FIRST community!