Andrew Jesus, a CHamoru college student and international robotics competitor, is transforming his passion into a mentoring program for students in the Midwest.
Jesus, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, is in the process of creating a nonprofit called The National Robotics Academy Inc. with the goal of facilitating STEM robotics competitions and making educational opportunities more accessible for K-12 students.
The 19-year-old is the grandson of Juan and Ellie Jesus from Asan, and the son of Stephen and Cathy Jesus of Bellevue, Nebraska. His father dele is CHamoru, while his mother dele has Polish and Belgian roots.
The rising sophomore at Iowa State University, who is studying aerospace engineering and computer science, started creating The National Robotics Academy Inc. with fellow robotics competitors Avery Hoffmann and Troy Ogden in 2020.
In May, they submitted their bylaws and paperwork to a state legislator in Nebraska and are waiting for the legislator to officially sign it.
“We’ve just been sitting around waiting for three months, so we’re actually behind our schedule, but we’re still moving forward,” Andrew Jesus said. “We’ve had a lot of support from our past competitors from past schools.”
The National Robotics Academy Inc. will be hosting its first inaugural tournament on Sept. 24, and he is determined that those participants will move on with the Iowa State Championship. He is also planning on conducting STEM camps next summer.
It started with Legos
His passion for robotics started after sixth grade when he joined a summer camp at a local high school.
“My mom goes, ‘Oh! You like Legos. Do you want to try this?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll try it,’” he said. “From there, it kind of all started. In my seventh and eighth grade at St. Bernadette School in Bellevue, Nebraska, I was starting to do competitions full time.”
“I robotics as another sport,” he said. “I lived at my school a lot, but it’s time I would never want to take away.”
He and his teammates became a force to be reckoned with after making it to the state finals in Nebraska. Their win led them to compete at the World Robotics Competition in Beijing in August 2017.
“I was three days into my freshman year in high school and then flew off to China for 10 days,” he said. “We met a lot of cool people from there.”
“That got me to learn about networking and grow my relationships with people in robotics and my co-workers here today that helped me find The National Robotics Academy Inc.,” he said.
The longtime robotics competitor nurtured his relationships with peers from the global competition over the years, and finally had the chance to collaborate on a project that would benefit students who lack access to educational resources in the field of robotics.
“Going into senior year of high school, we’re all kind of bored with COVID, not going to school and everything,” he said. “When we graduated, we started mentoring more and realized that this education factor is so much more important to us.”
In his freshman year of college, he started Zoom calls to mentor Nebraska high school student teams competing in statewide robotics competitions.
“It really paid off at our state championships this past year, where we had all our teams qualify,” he said. “We made state history in our school by being the program’s first-ever back-to-back state champions.”
“It’s a feeling of accomplishment when you see your team’s win versus you competing there,” he said.
Now with The National Robotics Academy Inc., Andrew Jesus and his peers want to take their knowledge of robotics competitions to provide more access to kids who can’t compete.
“I have been working on getting fundraising opportunities and sponsorships to make it as affordable for parents to let their kids do this,” he said. “We really want to eventually start pushing state legislators to incorporate more hands-on STEM education.”
Despite being busy with school and running his nonprofit, the robotics enthusiast found time to intern at Raytheon Technologies Corp. through December in Dallas.
He was assigned to the mission systems branch to work with electrical and mechanical engineers on military aircraft technology. The company is globally recognized as one of the leading aerospace intelligence service providers and defense manufacturers.
“It’s been nice there because I can see how corporate structure works and how to work in teams,” he said. “I’ve learned different methods of teamwork and how to really divvy up tasks that need to be done.”
Most importantly, Raytheon has a few programs with nonprofits, so he has been talking to key leaders about getting sponsorships and resources.
“Maybe they have some idea that I didn’t think of, so it’s just been really nice as a wealth of knowledge to just kind of take in as much as I can and apply it to The National Robotics Academy Inc.”