“I do what I do because I love doing it.”
That’s the way Maud Gorbet sums up her career as a Waterloo systems design engineering professor and her involvement in the FIRST Lego League (FLL).
She was honoured with a 2012 Women of Waterloo Region (WOW) award in the technology and science category for her leadership in bringing the international program to the Waterloo Region and spearheading increased local involvement in it. FLL provides team-based design challenges that students between the ages of nine and 14 solve using programmable Lego robot playsets. Gorbet has coached a local team for three years, and for the last four years, as part of Waterloo Engineering Outreach activities, has been largely responsible in the growing interest in the program.
The region has gone from having three teams four years ago to about 20 with approximately 200 children participating on them. Gorbet was instrumental in organizing the FLL Regional Qualifier Tournament held in Waterloo’s Engineering 5 in 2010 and 2011. Thanks to her efforts, Waterloo Region will host the 2012 Provincial Championship.
“What I like most is seeing the light in the students’ eyes when they’re working on a project they’re excited about,” says Gorbet. “They’re learning about science and technology, and are developing many different skills all at the same time.”
She says the program, which promotes creative thinking, problem-solving and teamwork, is making a difference in all the schools that participate, but especially in those located in less-advantaged areas.
Recently Gorbet met up with a family whose daughter had been involved in the program at a downtown Kitchener school. Not only does the girl want to start an FLL team at her new school, but thanks to the program she has also decided on her career path – engineering.
“It helped open up her eyes to what she wants to do with the rest of her life,” says Gorbet who made up her mind at an early age to have an engineering-related career in medical research. She is now an expert in the area of biomaterials and their use for applications such as the contact lens and her research focuses on developing novel materials and assessing biocompatibility of materials.
As well as acting as a role model to students who have been involved in FLL, she is one to her daughter Ameline, whose FLL team she coached for three years. Gorbet was at a conference the night the WOW awards were presented so it was Ameline, 12, who accepted her mother’s award. In her speech, she recognized the contributions of Mary Wells, Waterloo Engineering’s associate dean of outreach, who Gorbet says has been her role model.
Speaking about her mother at the WOW event Ameline said she is inspired by her work and the time she puts into her research.“I hope to one day be as amazing as she is.”