David and Cole

March 2018 TeamMates of the Month:  Building a Relationship

Like mentoring, engineering can sometimes be a patience game. Both are methodical and process-oriented tasks, they are powerful tools that can yield incredible results. Cole and his mentor, David Rutledge, have learned that lesson first-hand.

Cole has been meeting with his mentor every week since he was in the fourth grade. Now a middle-schooler at Scott, Cole has grown a lot since then. “Seeing Cole go from being a boy to a man is one of the thrills.” David says.

Their match started like most, quiet, maybe a bit cold and stiff. They played board games, chess mostly. “It was kind of awkward, to be honest.” Cole says, evoking a laugh from Dave. “[But] we warmed up to each other.”

“We warmed up after he beat me in chess for the first time.” David adds. They exchange smiles.

Sitting in the media center on a sunny Friday afternoon, there is activity echoing through the halls of Scott Middle School, but David and Cole are unperturbed. They are focused on setting up their project, a spring-powered golf ball launcher. Their pride is apparent.

David found the project in a book and Cole did the grunt work, “It was neat watching Cole make the pieces and I could sort of sit back.”

Now they carefully load the device, adjusting its launch angle using a fishing weight tied to the launcher with a bit of string.

Cole is a quiet student and a very bright young man. He likes science and engineering. Math not so much, David responds, “but you’re good at it! Cole did the math so I didn’t have to order 5,000 springs of different tensions that would make the ball go the right distance. He’s taking algebra now, so he didn’t have any difficulty understanding a college-level professor talking about force and substituting unknowns and so on.” One of us mentions the principle of conservation of energy.

With a device like this, the math is important. “We wanted something that would reach the target but not blow a hole in the wall behind.” David says and they both chuckle.

Hitting the target is still trial-and-error. They launch the ball, then adjust their angle; launch the ball, then adjust their angle. It takes a few tries and a lot of patience, but eventually they hit the bullseye and we all cheer.

When asked about the TeamMates Program, after a thoughtful pause Cole replies. “It’s weird how two random people can be so similar.” He says. “We really have a lot of the same interests.”

“And we had no idea that was the case until we started talking.” David shares. It may have taken them some time to warm to one another, but they kept meeting, they kept trying, they kept to the process. Almost four years later they are like old friends. Trial and error.

What is next for the match? They are thinking about starting a new project, creating a miniature remote-controlled air ship. From his time with David, working on this project or just hanging out, Cole says he has learned the importance of staying process oriented. “Don’t just go in and do things really quickly,” he says. Everything happens in its own time.