Brian Belley is following in the footsteps of his parents as a very dedicated and compassionate mentor for FIRST®, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, the educational robotics program sponsored by BAE Systems.
When Brian, 26, was a student at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School in Groton, Massachusetts, he was part of a FIRST Robotics team. His mom was a FIRST volunteer, and his dad – who has worked at BAE Systems for 29 years – was a mentor, helping students with the mechanical design of their robots. “He wouldn’t give us the answer,” Brian recalled about his dad’s mentoring. “He’d ask you the question to head you down the right path.”
These days, Brian is an aero-mechanical engineer at BAE systems, and although he works 40-plus hours a week, he finds time to mentor kids just like his dad and others mentored him. He became a mentor himself because he is passionate about engineering, and wants to get others enthusiastic about it as well. Now, he’s doing something to serve kids and shape their lives. On the practical side, he noted that it’s important for potential future engineers to see what engineering is like in real life. The FIRST program does that for the mentees, but it also has rewards for the mentors.
“You learn a lot from the students,” Brian said. “They are so eager about learning and they’ll teach you things along the way.”
Brian once mentored a team from Merrimack High School, for example, that had to learn Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire CAD software to design and draw their robots on the computer. “The students honestly learned the software so fast,” Brian said. “I remember thinking, ‘how did you do that?’ It was amazing to see how quickly they learned and how excited robotics made them about the engineering field.”
One particular mentee that stands out for Brian is Perry Franklin, now a robotics major at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. When Brian was Perry’s mentor, Perry was so excited about learning and robotics that he grew from a participant to a team captain, and Brian got to witness the transition. Brian still keeps in touch with Perry, who has become a good friend. “I’m actually trying to get him an internship for this summer,” Brian said.
You don’t have to spend 40-plus hours a week mentoring – although some mentors do, Brian said. He would encourage anyone to be a mentor – stressing that just an hour of a mentor’s time each week could mean the world to a mentee.
“There’s so much reward that you wouldn’t expect going into it, Brian said. “You’re impacting people’s lives.”