By day, Andre Jackson is a systems engineer/analyst for SAIC. But after school, he coaches a FIRST® LEGO® League team.
Q: Tell us about the program you volunteer with.
UME, Prince George’s County 4-H Youth Development Program, provides a supportive setting for all youth to reach their fullest potential. The program has a science initiative in which they coordinate STEM programs, one being the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL). The FLL is a competitive program where students aged 9-14 build and learn how to program robots to complete missions on a playing field. The missions are all based on a central theme, around which the students are also required to conduct research and present their findings and solution as a part of the competition.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with this program?
I got involved because I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to teach students what I had learned and also for me to learn what the students know.
Q: What do you do as a volunteer?
I am the coach of the Lego Pros, a 4-H FLL Robotics Team.
Q: How much time do you spend volunteering?
About 10 hours a week.
Q: What's the most fulfilling part about working with the afterschool program?
The most fulfilling part about both experiences was learning. Learning from the students and watching them learn something new, especially when it comes to programming the robot for the robot game. I am learning because I have a way that I think the mission should go and they think of a whole other way that works better.
Q: What's the most challenging part?
The most challenging part was realizing that some things take more time to learn than other things.
Q: What advice would you give to other professionals thinking about volunteering with an afterschool program?
The advice I would give is be patient. While every student may have the same passion and interest in the same afterschool program, not every student will learn at the same pace. So, patience is needed to get all students on one accord.
Q: What advice would you give to young people about studying STEM?
The advice I would give is to not be afraid to learn the math needed for these careers. I would tell the young people to choose a STEM field because they like it and not for the high salary potential.