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Fitch robotics adviser honored

May 17, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Fitch robotics mentor Robert Andrew Yantes, best known as Andy, is the recipient of the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award (WFFA). He was selected by team members for his dedication and devotion to Austintown's robotics teams.

To be eligible for the WFFA, a mentor or adviser must be nominated by the students on his team during a large event. That happened March 3 at the Miami Valley Regional Robotics Competition in Dayton.

Part of the nomination for the WFFA involved students writing a 3,000-character essay that showcases the contributions made by a mentor or adviser. While adults can help edit and check the essay, the whole process must be student led.

Article Photos

Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Robert Andrew Yantes, better known as Andy, has recently been awarded the Woodie Flowers Mentor of the Year award, a designation that an advisor or team mentor can only get once in a lifetime.

Fitch junior Elisa Yantes and her friend Taylor Baer took the process on and wrote the essay about Andy's years with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics teams at Fitch and in the area. While the essay highlighted Andy's career and the program's he brought to Austintown, it didn't mention his humble beginning.

Andy is an AT&T technician and in 2011 he was accompanying his oldest daughter Eileen to a robotics competition the Fitch team had entered.

"They had two mentors on the team at that time," Andy said. "At the event one of the students took ill and the mentor had to go with the student to the hospital. I asked the team if they needed help and that is how it all started."

Andy starting out by assisting the team only when they needed help, and he ended up being a full time mentor by the end of the 2011 season. In addition to his position as a mentor of the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team, he has increased the robotics programs.

After becoming a full time mentor for Fitch's FALCO Tech Team, Andy knew the key to a great program in gaining interest early. He was instrumental in bringing the first FTC (First Tech Challenge) Team to Austintown, then introduced the FIRST Lego League and Lego League Junior teams.

The FIRST Lego League Junior is the program for K through fourth grades. It introduces robot technology to the elementary kids by using members of the Falco the team to assist in teaching it. The FIRST Lego League then takes place in middle school where students learn to build and program a Lego robot.

"It is all about getting kids interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)," Andy said.

Moving up the ladder, the FIRST Tech Challenge Team deals with an 18 inch cube robot. It is advanced from the Lego League robotics.

The biggest and most intense division is the FIRST Robotics Competition. This is where the robots weight 120 pounds and have to function in certain ways and work in a team with other robots.

"These are the big boys," Andy said.

Andy spent the last seven years promoting the STEM ideas not only in Austintown schools, but with seven other FIRST Lego League teams outside Austintown. Today he is extremely well-known within the FIRST community of Ohio, especially after becoming an FTA (FIRST Technical Advisor) for the area.

Andy also is known as a pillar of compassion in the community. He volunteers an average of 1,200 hours a year and he urges his teams to do the same.

"Andy's compassionate heart has not only impacted the members of Falco Tech to give back to our city, but also shows us how a small act of kindness can go a long way," wrote Elise in her essay about her father.

She said her father continues to keep in touch with alumni as if they are still on the team. That has many alumni coming back to assist the FRC team because they want to give back for everything Andy did for them while they were on the team.

While Andy works as a wireless engineer for AT&T, he claims the robotics teams are done for relaxation. He said he always wanted to be a teacher, but went into computer science instead. He still gets to teach as a mentor to one of the Valley's top FIRST Robotics Competition teams.

"Its always been a good time for me," Andy said. "I learn from the kids as much as they learn from me."

As for the daughter that was part of that team that got him started, she is now 22 and has gone into bio-medical engineering. Elise is 16 and a junior at Fitch and his son Geoffrey is 15 and a freshman. They make Andy and his wife Janet proud. And the family and robotics teams in Austintown are proud of their mentor and happy to see him as a Woodie Flowers Finalist Award winner.



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