Transcript of our interview with Sinead, Parent
What's unique about Zebra Robotics that made you want to register your child there?
Dax is very academic and loves to play with Lego. And Zebra was right near our house, so we decided to try it out.
I found with other camps, he wasn't coming home excited or fulfilled, but with the Zebra camp, he was so excited to go every day. So I attribute that probably to Satish and Sharmila, the co-founders and owners: they are so kind and they are building community all the time. So as Zebra grows, they're evolving and changing, and they really keep the kids engaged and give them a sense of purpose being there. So that's mainly why we continue to choose Zebra Robotics.
Was this your child's first experience with Zebra Robotics?
Our first year was 2015. And he just loved it. He loved everything about it. So then we registered him in the program again, and he's been there ever since.
What does your child like best or find most exciting about Zebra Robotics?
He loves and really thrives at the competitions. Zebra gives the kids a lot of responsibility and accountability for their own projects. They’re tasked to work as a team on projects. They're tasked to solve challenges where the coaches are there to lend support, but the kids really have to come up with hands-on solutions. And Dax loves that.
Like I said, he started with the robotics program, which was building Lego pieces with small motors. He then went into coding, and now he's with the Vex program, which is the larger robots. And he loves building them and he loves working in the team atmosphere.
The age group for the teams runs from Grade 9 and goes all the way to Grade 12. So he's also learning from the older kids, which I think gives him a lot of confidence and maturity. He loves going in and would go in every single day.
Was there any change or noticeable personal growth in your son after his time at Zebra Robotics?
It's confidence in himself and in his ability to speak to others. Zebra stresses not only building and coding but also getting the children to explain what they're doing to audiences. For instance, last weekend we had all the parents come in and each kid had to explain the different processes that they've been going through with the robot, with the tracking systems, and with the challenges they're experiencing. So the kids learn to really speak to audiences, and this happens at the competitions as well. He was at a competition in Waterloo and he had to speak to hundreds of parents and kids, and they all stood up, and it really gives them the confidence to speak about what they're learning.
It’s great to see that head up high. He walks in, shakes hands with the coaches, and there's a lot of one-on-one. It’s a great way to build their confidence, their professionalism, and their respect and teamwork together.
If you hadn't sent your son to Zebra Robotics, what's the most important feature of personal growth they would've missed out on?
If he hadn't gone to this camp well, he would’ve missed out on working with the co-founders and Satish and Charmila, who I have the most respect for. The way they treat the children with such compassion and care and understanding that as a parent, I trust in their abilities.
These are people at the highest standards of their careers and the highest standards of their teachings. I know Zebra is also partnered with U of T, and they have advisors on their board. So I think if Dax hadn't gone here, he would have lost the opportunity of not only finding and growing his own interest in robotics and coding, but he would have lost the opportunities that this will give him at different universities around the world, as well as the ability to give back to his own community.
How can a parent support their child to get the most out of Zebra Robotics?
I'm a parent who knows nothing about robotics or coding or math. I'm way more over at the other side of the arts. So this is all alien to me. I supported my son by getting him there on time when he was little. I also offer him emotional support at the competition, just telling him to do his best.
Your child will need mental preparation for the competitions. Whether they win, or lose, it doesn't matter, as long as they've tried and they've prepared. So I take responsibility for my son’s preparedness, getting him to the program, getting him to different competitions, and always supporting him and talking to him. He explains to me what he's doing, and I always make sure that I'm listening, even if I'm not understanding.
And Satish and Sharmila also give the kids verbiage to be able to speak in layman's terms for parents like myself who don't understand. I think that's really important.
What does your child say about Zebra Robotics, either to you or that you may have heard them say to friends or others?
Dax absolutely loves it. I know he loves the growth. When he started, his goal was to get to the Vex program with the big robots. So as a little 8 or 9-year-old, he was looking ahead. And he used to watch the university competitions. I think they were called BattleBots or something on TV.
So now that he's done the learning and he's learned the coding, he knows tons of different coding languages and he's constantly learning them. And now he's able to deal with and work on the big robots.
And he's now telling me when he needs to be there. He's also taken the initiative this year to start riding his bike to Zebra. And he'll tell you himself that he has grown in his own confidence.
He has really excelled even in his planning in high school, especially starting high school in a COVID year, which was a huge challenge. He's learned how to plan, how to keep a calendar of when things are due and be accountable for when deadlines are. So the teachings of the program carry into his school life, his personal life, and his home life. I think it's just been a really good blessing and beneficial to us in that way and to him.
And the coaches are not holding their hands. But they let the kids try. And they let the kids fail. And then they help the kids figure out different solutions. I can't say enough about the program.
I think if parents are on the fence, if you are thinking about putting your kids into a robotics coding program, I know Zebra Robotics has done wonders for not only expanding the knowledge for the STEM programs, but they've also supported girls in STEM. And this is coming from a boy's mom. I know they have programs that are exclusively for girls. They want to see girls grow within the sector as well, which is amazing.
They've done so well in their competitions. They attend world competitions, which means they're winning local competitions, like municipal competitions, provincial competitions, and national competitions to get to the worlds. So the heart and soul behind this is a husband and wife team that just loves to give back. They've just put so much hard work into this company. And I think that the way Zebra has expanded just speaks volumes for how good this company is and how good their camps are.
Anytime I have a question, I reach out, and I get an immediate response. And they make it really fun for the kids. The kids are learning, but they're learning and having fun at the same time. I just think Zebra is fantastic all the way around.