Daniel Dilworth, a business analyst in Information Technology at DTE Energy, is passionate about teaching and influencing younger generations. He is one of the many DTE employees volunteering to be a mentor for FIRST Robotics teams this season.

He sat down with us to discuss his experiences as a mentor and how he sees it as a continuation of his work in the past.

How long have you been working at DTE Energy?

I’ve been here since May of last year.

What FIRST Robotics team do you mentor?

The Detroit International Academy for Young Women. They are the Pink Panthers.

How did you get involved with the FIRST Robotics program?

A coworker in IT was asking people if they’d be interested in mentoring students. I saw that it was about robotics, something I am familiar with, so I figured I would give it a try.

Familiar with robotics? Do you have previous involvement with FIRST?

Yes, my wife worked at a school that has a FIRST LEGO League team. Through her involvement, I volunteered there as a mentor for the students.

What has been the most noticeable difference between being a mentor at the high school level with the FIRST Robotics Competition compared to the elementary school level with FIRST LEGO League?

The complexity of what they’re trying to do. It’s not a simple task, they really take on an interesting challenge.

How do you think the skills that these students need to build a robot will translate when they enter the workforce?

No matter what you learn in school, whether it’s liberal arts or the hardest science, you need to be able to communicate and work as a team. It’s working with a group of people with a variety of talents, figuring out who can do what and what’s the best way to get a complex job done. FIRST Robotics is a perfect example of that.

How has being a mentor had a positive impact on you?

It’s been a continuation of some activities that I’ve done in the past. I taught high school with students from all different backgrounds, and that’s something I enjoy. I like to get involved with kids who are passionate about an activity and just try to help them.

Has teaching and influencing always been something you’ve been passionate about?

Yeah, it’s always been a primary passion of mine. I’ve coached my kids in soccer, helped run athletic leagues, taught in school, and am now mentoring robotics’ students.

How have the students you mentor surprised you?

I can’t say I’ve been surprised because I’ve been there and taught kids at this age before, but what has been a continued joyous experience is watching them figure things out. Watching someone suddenly become a knowledgeable team member about a certain subject. I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to develop as a real coordinated team.

Outside of robotics and work at DTE, what do you like to do?

I love getting out and throwing the Frisbee with my dog. I like to ride my motorcycle and get out in the country with my friends. Also, being back in Detroit after leaving for 36 years, I like to explore the city.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Detroit?

Currently it’s going out to Belle Isle. It’s lovely in the winter time. Besides that, it’s just great to see the way the city is coming back.

Back to robotics, is being a mentor in FIRST Robotics something you see yourself doing for years to come?

Yeah, I see myself staying involved. I think it’s engaging, there is an interesting dynamic to teaching and trying not to just reach in and do it yourself. It provides a good philosophy for all mentors in any program that the students learn the most when they do the work.

Would you recommend other DTE employees to this experience?

Yes, I would recommend it to everyone. It’s such a challenging, technical, and team-orientated task, that providing a supporting environment turns into a rewarding time.

FIRST Robotics is a worldwide organization that encourages students to pursue education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Each year, FIRST challenges high school teams around the world to build robots to accomplish goals on a gaming floor.

DTE Energy is an active supporter of FIRST Robotics in Michigan, sponsoring more than 30 teams across the state. In addition, dozens of DTE employees, like Daniel, volunteer their time as coaches and mentors throughout the season, including skills-based volunteerism in computer programming and engineering.

This season is particularly exciting for Michigan teams: Detroit is hosting the FIRST Robotics world championship. This April, thousands of players representing teams from across the globe will compete at the Cobo Center — and our Michigan kids will be working to be a part of that crowd.

Leading up to the world championship, we’ll introduce you to many of the people of robotics and share the teams’ stories as they build robots and compete.

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