Our mentors are a group of kind and helpful people, who, together, donate over 130 hours every week to helping the students learn through FIRST. Our mentors are all volunteers from our community, and all of them are self-coached in FIRST technology. Their professions and educational backgrounds range widely, from a high school chemistry teacher to a forestry technician. Our team is very fortunate to have mentors who care enough to use their free time to help us become better prepared for our futures.
This year our mentors include:
Ed Katz is a retired chemistry and physics teacher from Bonners Ferry High School. When asked why he started the team, Ed said, “Because I wanted something that could be extracurricular, support learning and be fun.” Ed believes that the things he has learned from being the lead mentor are to have patience, and give students time to mature. During his time as a lead mentor he has also discovered that there are a lot of generous people in the community. Ed feels that the most important thing he has learned since starting the team is to trust his instincts that everything will turn out “ok”. Some of Ed’s favorite parts of working with the team are seeing the students grow and mature over their high school career and hearing from successful alumni. Ed also enjoys working at a peer level with the students and encouraging them to take their own initiative, instead of telling them everything they have to do. Ed was the recipient of the 2013 Woodie Flowers Finalist Award at the Autodesk Oregon Regional.
Jill Katz has always been a part of the team since her husband, Ed Katz, created FIRST Team 2130. Jill is a retired Valley View Elementary School first grade teacher. She brings her skill to the team in the form of a business mentor. Her favorite part of the team is how everyone works together each year to solve the game challenge. Jill also enjoys spreading awareness of the importance of STEM education throughout the community and beyond. When asked what she has learned from being a mentor on the team, Jill replied, “Being on the team has confirmed for me the value of collaboration, acceptance, patience, support, passion and commitment.”
John Kaessinger joined FIRST Team 2130 in our rookie year of 2007 as a build mentor and pit foreman. He found out about FIRST through his son, Jacob, who joined in 2007. John was a signal foreman for BNSF Railroad when he joined the team, and is now a signal inspector. He loves watching the students push themselves past their comfort zone and learn from their experiences. As a mentor John has learned to be more patient, and that everybody can contribute something useful. He says, “Never discount somebody; little sparks of genius can come from all corners.”
Adam Krezman joined FIRST Team 2130 as a design and build mentor. He found out about the team through his son, Conner, who is currently a senior. Aside from being a mentor, Adam works for Idaho Granite Works. His favorite parts about the team are the students and sharing his knowledge with them. He believes that FIRST is a great program.
Carrick Remaley came to FIRST Team 2130 in 2010 as a build, design, and programming mentor. He found out about the team through our mentor, Ed Katz, who was a former colleague at Bonners Ferry High School. Carrick became a mentor after retiring from his job as a math teacher. Carrick now works on houses and motor vehicles, and enjoys playing golf. His favorite part about the team is how we encourage everyone to contribute. Carrick feels he has learned to have patience and calm his nerves at stressful times such as competitions.
Albert Solt joined FIRST Team 2130 during our rookie year after talking with Ed Katz. Albert was a controls engineer for EL Automation in the past, and he brings some of those skills to the team as a build and design mentor. Albert is now semi-retired though he does programming for Welco, City of Bonners Ferry, Lignetics, and Cabinet Mountain Water. His favorite thing about the team is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when something works. Albert has learned, and is still learning, that students are a lot smarter than he thought and that they have great ideas. He appreciates the benefits that FIRST provides to students.
Mike Tymrak has been with the team since 2007 when his son, Brennan, joined the team. Mike was taught to always make a difference, wherever he can, so when he saw the positive effect FIRST has on the lives of students, he didn’t hesitate to become a mentor. Mike doesn’t officially mentor any one sub-team; he fills the niches. When there is a job that needs to be done, Mike does it. He started bringing blue totes full of food to the meetings in 2008 when he saw that the students were hungry after being in school all day. This developed into in the creation of “Mike’s Chuck Wagon Lunch” at competitions. Mike works as a Forestry Technician for the U.S. Forest Service and as a volunteer cross-country coach at Bonners Ferry High School. He enjoys the energy and enthusiasm of the students and how they mature throughout their time in FIRST Robotics. Some of the things Mike has learned from mentoring our team include patience, working in a group atmosphere, and getting out of his comfort zone when meeting new people.
Dennis Weed joined FIRST Team 2130 last year as a business mentor, having heard about the team from Mike Tymrak. Dennis has worked in senior management for Boeing, and he currently works as Economic Development Director for Boundary County. He enjoys working around his house and farm as well as on other business entrepreneurship ventures. Some of his favorite parts about the team are seeing the robot develop and watching students get involved in both building the robot and team management. Dennis enjoys seeing the excitement generated in students by the FIRST program and appreciates the support of our community.
David Nix joined the team in 2014 after becoming the high school Physics and Chemistry teacher. He also took over the Robotics class offered at the high school after Ed Katz retired. He found out about the team during his interview to become a teacher at Bonners Ferry High School. Before coming to the high school, he was in the Navy for many years. During an interview, he compared part of his supervisor job in the Navy to the the Alpha+ team. “One has to work together with different parts of the team, and help integrate everything into the main overhaul of the team.” After being in the Navy, he went back to school to get his degrees, and realized his dream of being a teacher. He later moved to Bonners Ferry to work at BFHS. He says his favorite part of the team is the family atmosphere: to him, the team feels like everyone is part of an extended family.
Tess Nix joined the team in 2015 as a marketing mentor and works closely with the business team, writing letters, giving important input for our website, and more. Before this, Tess was a writer, marketing specialist, editor, and at least 14 other things at the same time. Although this seems like a lot, she still says teaching is harder, and she currently teaches English at the high school. Tess encourages success on her team by trying to set an example of gracious professionalism. She says, “I try to try. Every day. Every moment. Every breath. The moment I stop trying. I stop teaching.”
Cora Irelan joined the team this year as a business mentor, having heard about the team from Tess Nix. Cora is an English teacher at BFHS. Fitting with her being an English teacher, her favorite things to do are to read and write, and she brings her skill in writing to the business team. She has participated in National Novel Writing Month, a national project that challenges people to write 50,000 words in a month, for 8 years. She says that she “appreciates that she doesn’t understand how the non-business team part of robotics works” and finds what the students on the team can accomplish amazing.