Our Islands, Our Future

Students Brittany Nakagawa, Chaz Cabrero, Howard Andrade with mentor, Bob Brem.

Boeing Company‘s Senior Software Engineer Bob Brem has given as many as 200 hours of expertise this year as a mentor for the award-winning Baldwin High School robotics team. “I get a lot of satisfaction from it,” he said. “I think that we function as role models for students who see that there are rewarding careers available.” As a mentor in robotics, Brem helps with the configuration and setup of a robotics computer and software the Baldwin high schoolers put together for competition. He explains programming concepts and provides engineering guidance. In his three-year stint as a volunteer, Brem has obtained up to $15,000 in grants from Boeing to help the team with its expenses.

Baldwin High School industrial arts teacher and robotics lead advisor Gary Suter said Brem’s assistance is invaluable. “He keeps the kids engaged and gives them a good insight on what kind of future they could have.” This year the Baldwin High School robotics team was part of a three-team alliance that captured the first-place title at the FIRST Hawaii Regional Robotics Competition. Brem traveled with the students to the Mainland to represent Hawaii at a national competition. “Without his expertise, we’d really be hurting,” Suter said. The Baldwin team, nicknamed “Bearbotics,” was sponsored this year by the Maui Economic Development Board, Maui Electric Co., Boeing, BAE Systems, Textron, Warren S. Unemori Engineering, ROC Hawaii and the Monsanto Fund.

Brem said students (and their parents) show a lot of interest in learning more about science, technology, engineering and math. “These robotic programs generate enthusiasm and provide a start along the path toward a engineering/technical career, but in my opinion, they are not enough.” Brem said more support is needed to integrate engineering into the school curriculum. In addition, more mentors are needed for students engaged in science and engineering programs. Asked to give advice, Brem said: “When you find something you think you like, dive deeper and work hard at it. Nothing comes without effort. Work is not ‘work’ if you are doing something that you enjoy.”