It was 2012 when Joe Lemieux found his second calling as a FIRST Robotics mentor at his daughter’s school. His first calling, electrical engineering, was the catalyst to setting forth a decade of service to students from all walks of life. Now, after six years of serving as a head mentor of the Shambots, Lemieux is looking forward to beginning his new role as head coach and program director of Catholic Central’s FIRST Robotics program.
Lemieux’s time spent as a volunteer assisting his daughter’s team inspired him to establish and become a founding member of Catholic Central’s FIRST Robotics program in 2016. At the time, his son was a student at CC, so it was yet another opportunity to bond around their shared love of engineering. Beyond spending time with his children, Lemieux found deep value in the FIRST organization and its teaching fundamentals of engineering to kids that may not otherwise be exposed to hands-on engineering work until college.
“I’ve always loved engineering,” said Lemieux. “I continue to do this because it’s rewarding to bring that excitement to young students and to show them what engineering is and to inspire them to take those classes in college and introduce them to engineering as a career. Even when you see a student with potential, until a person applies engineering tactics, it’s hard to understand from just a book. To see a student make the connections and fully understand the concepts is a very enjoyable time.”
After founding the Shambots alongside former coach and program director Heather Vingsness, Lemieux took the lead as a head mentor, coordinating and managing the other parent mentors and volunteers. Now, stepping into his new role as head coach, Lemieux has lofty goals for the Shambots, which include attending the 2023 FIRST Robotics World Championship.
The goal may be at the forefront of every team’s mind this year, but Lemieux knows the Shambots can do it. Why? Because they have done it before, in 2017 and 2018.
“We are coming out of COVID, where we lost two full years of competition,” said Lemieux. “Last year we began to recover from the pandemic, and we applied new technologies and received a lot of new equipment. We made a very good robot last year, but this year we want to go farther and place at nationals so we can go to the world championship. We’ve been there before; we know what it takes. We have the team and the equipment, so I expect us to go far.”
Robotics can seem daunting to some with no background experience, but Lemieux wants students to know that the only prerequisite for joining the Shambots is interest in engineering, coupled with dedication and commitment to the team.
“All you need is a desire to learn. You do not need previous knowledge to be part of this team,” said Lemieux. “FIRST Robotics is not a club and it’s not a hobby, it’s a competition team. Students have to be willing to put in the time and effort for the team. The amount of work and commitment you must have is the same as you would expect of an athlete.”
Coach Lemieux is looking forward to a diverse grade group of students to join this year’s team and commitment to making it to the World Championship. To learn more about Robotics and other extracurriculars at CC, visit https://www.catholiccentral.net/activities.
Admissions Lunch & Learn: George & Mary Turek Hall of Science and STEM - Tuesday, Oct 25 (virutal, 30 minute event - registration required)