How did an elementary school teacher end up in the world of automotive? Barbara Tamura, Exec. Admin. to Sr. VP Sales, Operations, Strategic Planning & Marketing at DENSO Products and Services Americas, Inc., taught in inner city schools in Los Angeles for 10 years before deciding she needed a change.
Barbara always loved cars, so she looked for opportunities working for Nissan, Infiniti and Mitsubishi, before finally finding her home at DENSO. In 10 years, she’s gained extensive experience and taken on new roles and responsibilities.
Her newest assignment? A mentor to the JetStream FIRST Robotics Competition Team #2710.
JetStream isn’t your average FIRST team, and Barbara isn’t your average FIRST mentor. Finding one another has not only helped the team win championships, it’s also helped Barbara, and the DENSO team, share their passion for STEM and strengthen their local community.
We spoke with Barbara to learn more.
How did you connect with this team?
The opportunity fell out of nowhere and into my lap! It all started when my mother came with me to a DENSO holiday party last year. Later at church, my mom bragged about DENSO, our technology and expertise in robotics. My mother’s friend told her granddaughter, Lauren, about what we do because of Lauren’s love for robotics. From there, Lauren saw an opportunity and told her FIRST team about DENSO, which speaks to the power of word of mouth and being involved in your community.
Lauren’s team had recently split off from their local high school and instead was part of a community team made up of kids from around the area. Lauren wrote me a letter requesting DENSO’s support. Without backing from a school, corporate sponsorship was the only way for the group to stick together and compete.
Why did you decide to become a mentor for FIRST Robotics?
This opportunity filled a personal goal of mine to help youth in my community. Mentoring the team also aligns with two of DENSO’s long-term goals that are important to me – to contribute to a better world by creating value together, and to bring hope for the future of our planet, society, and all people.
What is the most rewarding part of being a mentor?
Seeing the enthusiasm and dedication our team put into building their robot, and despite challenges – they won! My team ended up in 1st place at the Long Beach/LA Port Fleet Week Competition. The team also recently qualified for the World Championships in Houston in April. Their ticket was punched by winning the Los Angeles Regional competition along with its alliance partners Beach Bots #330 and Robot Dolphins from Outer Space #5199. I’m so proud of them.
I also loved seeing them smile and jump up when I shared that I would continue to be their mentor and DENSO was donating $5,000 along with some equipment, which will enable the team to stay and compete together for one more year.
Why are mentors so important for FIRST Robotics teams?
This question brings me back to my teaching days. Supporting youth involved in STEM-based activities helps them succeed and teaches them that goals are easier to achieve through teamwork and collaboration. Mentors give young kids confidence, independence and a feeling of safety, which are primary steps that lead to learning.
As mentors, DENSO can teach teams about engineering, analytics, problem-solving, marketing, artificial intelligence and so much more, and help nurture their interest in these areas.
Would you recommend more DENSO associates mentor teams?
Absolutely! Mentoring helps DENSO’s reputation in many ways. It demonstrates our corporate citizenship and community responsibility and reinforces our brand with a new generation of kids.
More importantly, these youth teams are our future job talent pool. The team I mentor is exceptional and crazy about STEM. Many will go on to pursue engineering in college and I would love to see them at DENSO someday as part of our global team.
Learn more about DENSO’s involvment in FIRST Robotics here.Tags: Alliances Training & Development