Lakshmi wins the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award
What does it mean to be a mentor? Some may say that it’s to serve as someone’s tutor; some say it’s to be a guide for another person, but it is so much more.
What does it mean to be a mentor? Some may say that it’s to serve as someone’s tutor; some say it’s to be a guide for another person, but it is so much more. Lakshmi Meyyappan is a perfect example of what a mentor should be. Lakshmi is our Director of Professional Services and an active member of our local community. For several years, she has been mentoring the ILITE Robotics team at Battlefield High School in Haymarket, VA. This team focuses on the advanced study of Robotics and its application to our daily lives. They have always emphasized using their skills for volunteerism and finding creative ways to benefit the community. For example, last year Lakshmi and her team designed, prepared, and 3D printed over 2,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items to hospitals around the country. Truly a remarkable effort from such a young group.
It’s no secret that 2020 had its challenges - one that many of us faced was how to successfully transition from an in-person working environment to a virtual one. The ILITE Robotics team said, “When the team made the switch to virtual meetings, Lakshmi was the lynchpin. Her relentlessly positive attitude has carried us through these hard months because her belief in FIRST’s goal of inspiration is so strong...She has helped train a new generation of student leaders, teaching both explicitly and by example how to communicate effectively in the new virtual environment.” Her mentorship goes beyond the technical, and this team had the urge to share how instrumental Lakshmi is with the rest of the world.
The ILITE Robotics team nominated Lakshmi for an award called The Woodie Flowers Award. This award celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering design. It recognizes an individual who has done an outstanding job of motivation through communication while also challenging the students to be clear and concise. Lakshmi played and continues to play a vital role in showing teens (and, let's be honest, us adults too) how to be an inspiring member of an ever-changing community while expanding their own expertise in the engineering world.
In addition to helping the team with their electronics work, Lakshmi showed them how to intertwine their expertise with volunteerism. An ILITE Robotics member said, “Lakshmi benevolently volunteers her time to promote success across the district. Her immense experience volunteering with diverse groups has allowed her to be a great influence. This experience, furthermore, allows her to connect with people through inclusive, kind, and gracious communication.” Showing this group of teens that volunteering and mentoring go beyond just the subject matter is what makes Lakshmi such a great mentor. In fact, Lakshmi’s name has a special meaning to it. It means “a lucky omen.” The team said, “Through the power of hard work and encouragement, Lakshmi has been a formidable force pushing ILITE to excel, and we really are the luckiest team in the world to have her by our side.” It is no secret the impact Lakshmi has had on this team and community.
We caught up with Lakshmi and asked her a few questions of our own about mentorship.
What does mentoring the ILITE Robotics Team mean to you?
I mentor because I didn’t have many mentors growing up but desperately wanted one. If I can help one student get through high school with a little more knowledge, wisdom, kindness, or maturity, it is all worth it. I also want to give girls an example of what women can do in the STEM industry. Not every girl has to love robots, but I just want them to give it a fair chance and not write it off because they think they’re bad at math or because it looks too hard for women to be successful.
What has been the best part about mentoring the team?
I think the best part about mentoring ILITE is that the students and the other mentors understand that this whole journey is about more than robots. I am continually inspired by the team working to improve their community and become our future leaders while building a really cool robot! And I hope by helping them see a bigger picture outside of high school, I am helping build a brighter future for our local community and the world around us.
What advice would you give a future mentor to be successful with their mentorship?
It can be tiring, especially when starting a year with teenage students who have not been involved in a team that cares about ethics, community, kindness, etc. So first off, know that even if you don’t see major changes while the kids are in your care, you are still positively affecting their lives! Second, make sure to stop and be inspired by the students! The students’ smallest victories will reenergize you to keep living your best life and to keep inspiring them. And finally, remember that every minute you spend with the students, they are learning much more than the STEM skill you are teaching them. You may be doing a lesson on coding, soldering, CAD, or something else, but they are also learning how to carry themselves, how to care for others, how to communicate, how to lead as a mentor and not as a boss, and many other life skills.
As said before, mentoring goes beyond just a subject matter. It’s a chance to help push someone to their fullest potential, both personally and professionally. There are good and bad days, just like anything in life, but before you know it, you’re making an impact. That’s why at Macedon, we live by being More Than a Coder™. We are actively aware that we are more than just our jobs. We are influencers of our company, our industry, and our community. Macedon’s mission is to transform businesses by rethinking and evolving how they work to disrupt the future. That proves true in our company and our personal lives. We live to push the limits of what is possible. Lakshmi is a true testament to that, and her ILITE Robotics team thinks so too! Congratulations, Lakshmi, on this award and being a positive role model for so many!