iRobot engineers to UMass Lowell students: Don’t be afraid to fail
For Eva Moscat, it was Discrete Structures II. For Matt Wilson, it was Chemistry for Engineers. For Anne (Faber) Gambino, it was Dynamic Systems.
At some point in their college careers, nearly every student runs into at least one course that gives them fits. No matter how many notes they take or how many times they re-read the chapter, they feel like they’ll never be able to wrap their head around the subject matter, let alone pass the course.
A group of engineers from iRobot wants students, particularly those in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), to know that it’s OK – they’ve all struggled, too.
As part of the Bedford-based robot manufacturing company’s outreach program to encourage STEM education, small teams of employees are visiting Boston-area colleges and universities on what they’ve dubbed the “#PermissionToFail” tour. Four iRobot engineers – including two young alumni, Gambino and Moscat – shared their stories with close to 75 UMass Lowell undergrads on a recent Thursday evening at University Suites.
“We’re not here to tell you to fail out of your classes, because we won’t be allowed back on campus if we do that,” said Lisa Freed, iRobot’s STEM program manager, drawing chuckles from a packed USuites conference room. “However, we want to be honest. You probably did well in high school and then, lo and behold, you’re taking these classes in college and suddenly you’re getting a C-minus, or a D, or maybe below that. And you’re thinking, ‘What just happened? That can’t be.’ Well, it happened to every one of us.”
Besides talking about their own academic struggles, the panelists advised students on how, when and where to ask for help and offered tips on dealing with stress.
“If you’re shy like I am, use your resources,” said Moscat, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the Kennedy College of Sciences in 2011 and her master’s in computer science in 2014. “Talk to your professor or TA and ask how you can bring your grade up. Go for tutoring. Seek help. Don’t drown in this feeling that you’re not smart enough.”
Moscat, who joined iRobot in January as a software engineer after working for almost two years as a firmware engineer at Fitbit, told students she lived through the pressures of maintaining a certain GPA to stay on scholarship.
“I know I put pressure on myself, but I stuck with it,” Moscat said. “It gets better.”