According to the Journal of Pedagogical Research, when elementary aged students are introduced to robotics at an early age, those individuals tend to enter a STEM related career - most likely in engineering. Not only does robotics help students find their career path, but it also helps with problem solving skills, mathematical thinking skills, cooperative work skills, creativity and problem solving skills as well as understanding the scientific methods, logic of programming, and engineering design processes.
Fortunately for Anthony Mahshigian, Class of 2013, The Woods Academy launched its first robotics team in 2010 while Anthony was in 6th grade, and in line with the research aforementioned - it ignited a flame in him that helped launch his career.
Anthony remembers his time at The Woods very fondly. He was always a fan of the math and science classes, but made a point to try everything he could. He was on the soccer team, enjoyed the arts, and said he loved being in the courtyard hanging out with his friends. When asked about his favorite things about The Woods, Anthony said the relationship with his teachers is what stands out the most. The small class sizes allowed for those relationships to be strong and everlasting as well as the ability to really get to know his classmates (Anthony is still really close with his Woods friends).
In 2010, when The Woods Academy launched its first FLL Robotics team, Anthony found his passion. The Owlbots - the first team name - was a dedicated group of seven students who set out on a new journey. Anthony was introduced to coding through this and he was officially hooked! At The Woods, Anthony continued to be involved in robotics, even helping to bring the team to the Maryland First Lego League Championship in 2013 (his 8th grade year) finishing 3rd overall out of 72 teams.
Anthony was accepted into the Global Ecology Magnet Program at Poolesville High School where he continued to study science. This magnet program provides students with the knowledge and understanding of the scientific, cultural, social, political, economic, and technological conditions that affect the quality of life. While this magnet program was more focused on environmental science, it allowed him to explore the world around him through field trips and interesting classes. Anthony joined the Poolesville High School robotics team - Team 4099 - knowing that he enjoyed this extracurricular at The Woods so much. Team 4099 ended up being the highlight of Anthony’s high school career. It allowed him to meet new people and continue his passion in robotics.
After high school, Anthony went to University of Maryland. He majored in engineering. He picked University of Maryland for its big lecture hall style classes and the more opportunities that come with a large state school. This is where Anthony found real world coding and thrived. He was the President of the Sigma Phi Delta Fraternity - the only socially oriented engineering and computer science fraternity at UMD - and was also an Undergraduate Research Assistant where he analyzed International Space Station sensor data to gain insight on cosmic rays. Little did he know, he was actually heading to space himself.
Today, Anthony is a Software Engineer for SpaceX in Los Angeles. Anthony works with a team of engineers whose sole responsibility is to create the code that makes the rockets fly. They also help make decisions during the flights, respond to the environment, and are ultimately the brains behind the rockets. When asked how he landed at SpaceX, Anthony said his major at UMD opened up the possibility for internships at places like Boeing and through connections at internships, he made it to LA. SpaceX, according to Anthony, is a fun place to work - not like your average office! He enjoys watching the launches, working with a team, and the fact that each day it feels like he’s learning something new in an ever changing industry.
Anthony credits The Woods Academy for where he is today. In addition to instilling in him a strong sense of faith and community - something he has sought and found in LA - he is in “space” from what foundation was laid for him while at The Woods. He said, “I always preferred the math and science classes. Mr. A was one of my favorite teachers and I really enjoyed his classes. It got me interested in STEM, and also the robotics team with code itself and computers. I spent a lot of time with the robotics team - every day after school and on weekends. That was my favorite thing to do. That really made me more interested in robotics and then eventually that turned into computer science.”