My name is Lisa Andrade. I’m a coach of the Classy Cyborgs – a young team of entrepreneurs who want to make a difference within the blind community. I am also a parent – my son is a Classy Cyborg. It has been one year since the team first met in September 2014 to begin their FIRST LEGO League (FLL) “World Class Challenge”. What a year it has been! This is a story of the Classy Cyborgs’ incredible journey from a coach’s perspective.
The Classy Cyborgs are on a mission to help solve the Braille literacy crisis. The team continues to develop their Treasure Box Braille Learning System – learning software for the visually impaired. The students are busy attending meetings, completing project work at home and speaking at events.
The thing that impresses me the most about this young group of entrepreneurs is their commitment to their project. Team members are goal oriented and are genuinely curious about learning more about product development and becoming entrepreneurs. From the onset, the students found their individual niche within the group. There are software programmers, mechanical engineers, marketers, bloggers, researchers and product designers. Their diverse skill set is their strength. I’m especially proud of the Classy Cyborgs’ willingness to collaborate and share ideas with the community, their respect for one another, and ability to have fun with whatever task they are working on – a trait from which most adults can learn. These are all guiding principles within the FLL core values framework and we consider them integral to our ongoing work.
Recently, I asked the team: “What has been your proudest moment this past year with your project?”. I was expecting the students to list their award achievements such as becoming semi-finalists for the FLL Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE, or winning the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project Award or seeing themselves on national television. However, their responses included examples of their personal growth: learning how to program, achieving the confidence to speak before hundreds of people at various events and working as a team.
My question to the students made me reflect on my proudest moment as a coach and mentor. I’m proud that I have been able to push through my own comfort zone to navigate the team through new territory of building a start up entity composed of children under the age of 14.
I am also proud of the network of support from community, government and corporate organizations that are helping with the team’s mission. I’ve heard people say that “it takes a village to raise an entrepreneur” and I am blown away by those who have stepped forward to mentor, guide and contribute resources to help the Classy Cyborgs achieve their dream.
With special thanks to FIRST LEGO League, VentureLAB, Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, CST Consultants, CNIB, Perkins School for the Blind and StartUP York.
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