Millennials. This term can bring many things to mind. On the positive side, Millennials are often known to think outside the box and be more forward thinking. On the negative side some may say Millennials are lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. Whatever your opinion, today’s Millennials certainly have plenty of opportunities, but perhaps the biggest challenge is how to prepare them for the real world.
Entrepreneur is another term that is more widely used than just 10 years ago. Young people want to be entrepreneurs, colleges are adding entrepreneurship programs…BUT, how do you truly create an entrepreneur mindset in today’s Millennials? I certainly don’t have the answers, but Shelly Gruenig certainly does, and has an incredible amount of success stories. You will be amazed at the success Shelly has had mentoring thousands of young people to be our future entrepreneurs.
In this podcast I sit down with Shelly and one of her students (and future entrepreneurs) Derek Sanchez and discuss her “Be Greater than Average” method through hands-on mentoring, getting students out of the classroom, and teaching the skills you will not learn in a typical classroom.
This is much more than teaching students STEM and robotics, but about teaching them leadership, and confidence, and truly preparing them for the challenges that lie ahead in real world.
Also, be sure to check out all of the podcasts, and subscribe below so you will never miss an episode:
To learn more about Shelly and BeGreaterThanAverage, visit their website at: begreaterthanaverage.org. Also, be sure to search for their “STEM Southwest Podcast” wherever you find podcasts.
Lastly, if you are a mentor, educator, or want to be one and help our youth with STEM or other ways to teach technology, know that you have a great resource with SOLIDWORKS Education solutions. We have plenty of free offerings for students so please visit our Education page at solidworks.com/education.
Transcription (AI Assisted)
Shelly Gruenig 0:00
So we use the slogan that I use with them all the time, which is be greater than average. And we think you have to give kudos to NASA because I got it off the thought off of a NASA t shirt. Right. But using be greater than average, LLC is the name of the company that I run with the students to do camps and classes and after school programs. And not only are we building robots, but the fantastic part about it is I’m really building entrepreneurs. Now I’m mentoring a lot of young entrepreneurs, you know, whether they’re learning Photoshop or solid works, or how to build a robot or how to use a power tool. We’re just mentoring a lot of young people.
Hi there. This is the sauna works born in design podcast, a collection of inspiring stories about those who create, build, invent an engineer new ideas in the actual new products, and by the way, they all use solid works. I’m your host Cliff meddling, and this episode is titled
Building tomorrow’s robotics engineers I’m talking with Shelly Gruenig, who’s the mentor and Derek Sanchez. The student. Shelley started teaching her own children robotics at home to better prepare them for the future. But ended up mentoring thousands of students like Derek on not just robotics, but many skills needed to manage challenges they will face once leaving home. Shelly has an incredible positive attitude and great advice on mentoring our youth that you need to hear. Let’s jump right in and hear their story.
So, Shelley, first of all, let’s let’s jump right in. So how did this How did you get started? How did you get started in robotics,
Shelly Gruenig 1:37
right? Well, many years ago, back in 2005, I was looking for an opportunity I was a homeschool mom looking for something for my own kids to do and to enhance their science knowledge. And I have a background in training and career education and I feel very strongly about Young people being prepared when they leave our homes to be able to what I call launch their life effectively. And so with that in mind, I stumbled across several different robotics competitions and thought that would really resonate well with my son. Little did I know that when his sisters came along, it would also open up space for them to explore stem science, technology, engineering and math in ways that that we’re not just studying out of a book, but very hands on with the excitement of the competition to drive their learning
right now, you mentioned launch their life. So we talked about this yesterday. And, you know, I know my son just went off to college and there’s a lot of young people going off to college who don’t know their path. So maybe you can elaborate a little bit on that. How this is expanding their interest to see if they’re interested or not, or different aspects to that.
Shelly Gruenig 3:06
Sure. Well, in the field of career education, we’ve got basically a triangle of skills, values and interests. And, you know, they learned values in our homes. And that’s pretty effective. Generally, we need to be intentional about that. But a lot of times students aren’t beyond academic books and studying, they aren’t exploring the skills and the interest. So, like you said, opening up doors of opportunities so that they can look at interest and then those interests, they use those to drive their own skill building. And I think that we can all see that in our own careers and our own career paths, right. So if a young person is just given more opportunities to explore interests early on, and I actually have an online course that I take Students through step by step called Life launch Academy.
And it’s just small steps to gain not only explore those interests, but to gain the skills and figure out how to even gain skills to do those things and try it out. You know, you may or may not like it, you may find something that you really don’t like, which I say is as valuable, if not more valuable than finding the things that you’re passionate about. So I think that for those kids that are wandering, you can wander for a really long time in this world.
Shelly Gruenig 4:34
We all know adults that are still wandering, right? And so just to get a plan together, and to start somewhere is really important and important for our young people. And as parents we need to do that. So after I started the team, you know, the first two years we competed, but the team continued to grow. We started with three kids and now after so many years of doing this, we have 30 to 40 kids on the team, but somewhere around year six, my son said to me, Mom, we like doing this so much. We should teach other kids. And I said, What a fantastic idea. That was a door of opportunity, right? He was it was his idea.
So I took action. We started we got a donation of electronics. And we started doing camps where where the students on the team would teach other kids how to build robots in a week long camp, and on the last day of camp, we would have a competition so that along there, that very first camp that we offered is when Derek’s mom who had been a personal friend of mine, and we’re going to meet Derek here in a little bit right. Derek’s mom enrolled him in that camp. And that’s where his story begins to unfold in the world of robotics and solidworks and technology and and just growing and learning about himself. And so after all these years of coaching, we’ve not only I’ve not only graduated hundreds of kids alums from the team itself, but we have grown that little camp business into a company. Because several years later, some of the kids said, We’d like to do this so much, we should build a company.
So we use the slogan that I, I use with them all the time, which is be greater than average.
I love it.
Shelly Gruenig 6:24
And we thank you. And I have to give kudos to NASA because I got it off the thought off of a NASA t shirt. Right. But using be greater than average LLC is the name of the company that I run with the students to do camps and classes and after school programs and birthday parties. And not only are we building robots, but the fantastic part about it is I’m really building entrepreneurs. Now I’m mentoring a lot of young entrepreneurs and doing a lot of media arts and you know, whether they’re learning Photoshop or solid works or how to build a robot or how to use a power tool. We’re just mentoring a lot of young people.
That’s that’s, that’s outstanding. And how many people have gone through the program? Just an estimate?
Shelly Gruenig 7:14
Yeah. Well, I think we’ve probably touched at least 3000
3000 thats good.
Shelly Gruenig 7:20
students over the years. So and and that’s just the students that have been in the program we’ve we’ve reached out to probably close to 10s of thousands beyond that because it every competition that we attend, I’ve instilled this what we call we made up our own word, we keep saying we’re going to enter it with Webster, but we call it cooperition
Shelly Gruenig 7:44
So we’re competition we’re competing against other students, but we’re cooperating in a really powerful powerful way and that’s just a value goes back to that career triangle, right? instilling those really strong values and And what I call coaching for character
That’s great, now why coaching for character?
Shelly Gruenig 8:06
well, because I think that it mimics life. You know, you’re not going to always win the days that we’ve lost and there have been tears because there are tears Even at robotics competition.
Im Sure. Yeah,
Shelly Gruenig 8:17
Those days we’ve learned more, right? It’s failing forward, you know, having something really hard happen, taking the hit, working your way through it, and figuring out how you can change it in the future.
Shelly Gruenig 8:31
And that’s how I you know, the team itself are 10 times state champions, and they have also won at the regional level. So one of the top four teams in the country
Shelly Gruenig 8:46
In the best robotics competition, but then we compete in other competitions as well. And so they wouldn’t have gotten that far. I am confident we would not have won first place the year that we won first place if we hadn’t have completely shifted at the state competition two years earlier, right? That was the motivator. And, and that’s how we interest our kids. You know, that’s the carrot.
Right? There’s another podcast that I did recently. And we’ve talked about entrepreneurship say they learned by failing, you know,
Shelly Gruenig 9:17
failing is a good thing. You want to fail as quickly as you can.
Shelly Gruenig 9:21
So that’s how you learn for success. So it’s great that you’re teaching these young people that lesson early,
Shelly Gruenig 9:27
learning how to get through it and move on.
Shelly Gruenig 9:30
Absolutely, absolutely. Lick our wounds. Figure out what we can learn. And let’s fail forward. Right. So
yeah, I like that.
Excellent. Well, now that you mentioned, Derek, let’s bring him in a little bit if you want to, if you want to touch on what what Shelley was saying there. So I’m going to start from the beginning with you though. So what age did you teach yourself solidworks or did you learn solidworks?
Derek Sanchez 9:52
I was introduced a solidworks at 10 years old through the robotics camps. I don’t think it was right away at the camps but it was soon after joining the robotics team. And that initial camp I remember the student teachers having to force us to put the power tools down and go eat lunch. And because we were so excited, we didn’t want to stop. And so we like, Do we have to stop and go eat lunch, we cant stay here and work and ya know, it was a great experience. And I was hooked from that point forward and there was no turning back. Soit was good.
I want to miss now. You mentioned you learn, you start learning at 10 years old. You’re 18 now and you’re quite the solid works guru. That’s what everybody that’s what everybody’s been introducing us. So
Derek Sanchez 10:46
yeah, I’m the robotics team. We have a couple of different things that we compete with. It’s the robot itself. We have a marketing presentation we have an exhibit booth a spirit Team it’s quite a large competition. But one of the things is our marketing presentation. And in this marketing presentation, one of the things that I really enjoyed was making solidworks animations to use during the marketing presentation. And so I
Now why is that important?
Derek Sanchez 11:21
The marketing presentation is
Why is the animations important in the marketing presentation?
Derek Sanchez 11:26
is during the presentation, it’s very heavily judged. And so we were trying to do anything we could to give us the advantage.
Stand out a little bit.
Derek Sanchez 11:37
Exactly, exactly. And so before I had started doing it, there was another was there two? One or two other students? Who had done it before me. And two other students who have started to do animations. And so I got to kind of sit back and watch them do it and see how they were using solidworks and stuff and then I got to pick up where they left off and kind of fell forward a lot. I failed forward a lot, a lot of pushing through and teaching myself the animation part of it and slowly figured out how to use the animations to do more and more. And they started out small and and but every year they got better and better and my modeling got better and better. And so I think the first few robots we had went from somewhere like 20 to 30 parts to this last model. I think it was over 250 parts on just because I had actually me and the team had actually been able to take the time to work together and make the full model of it and not just like a representation of it in solidworks.
Being a presenter at a solidworks user group meeting, which is terrifying as a 17 year old kid it’s and those have all added up to some great experiences where I’ve got to learn a lot, particularly coming back to public speaking has been a big aspect which you almost have to as a homeschooler because if you can’t talk and you’ll never talk to anybody if you if you gotta learn you learn it somehow because
It’s such a great skill I mean our professional speakers these days and do very well so so I have to ask how good did it feel to finish that solidworks user group presentation I bet that was..
Derek Sanchez 13:28
The feeling came before it ended because during the presentation It was about maybe three quarters the way through that’s my animations popped up and I got to show them and like as a student who had kind of just like I don’t know threw himself at solidworks just to see what could come out on the other side and like I have these animations and I’m like I don’t even know how to scale like I don’t know where they stand in comparison anything and everyone in the room was jaw dropped immediately. It was like, Oh my god, that’s so cool and willing, rabid game. He was super excited and I distinctly remember that which was it was really encouraging to see that and then they were all encouraging me and just telling me like those are some amazing animations that they had never been able to do themselves like they hadn’t gotten to that level which hearing that at 17 was really exciting and
Derek Sanchez 14:30
so that’s when it the joy came during that part of the meaning of like getting excited about some of the work that I’ve gotten to do and stuff. So that was encouraging part for sure.
Excellent. Well I got one more question for you. Then I ended I go back to Shelly but so so what’s next for you? What’s your what’s your next step? What’s your big dream ?
Derek Sanchez 14:50
So I just graduated high school and I’m currently just started to two weeks ago my freshman classes and so right now I am looking for a job opportunity or internship opportunity to use solidworks so I can continue to grow my skills while being able to work through college to put me through college. So that’s my current goal is I’m looking for an opportunity right now.
That’s great for you. I’m sure you’ll find it.
Derek Sanchez 15:18
Hopefully the podcast will help.
Exactly. So Shelley, was there anything else? I love that marketing Blitz story? Could you share that with us?
Shelly Gruenig 15:27
Absolutely. So what I have to say is that, you know, this all comes from back to that career triangle, right? Like skill building and, and just my philosophy of be greater than average like, and the idea that be greater than average isn’t that you’re trying to beat other people. You’re actually just trying to be a better version of yourself each day when you wake up, and what have you done in a given day to make yourself stronger and better and contribute to the world right. And I think that confidence is a really important part of raising our kids.
And So putting them out there into real world situations, and that’s what our kids really want. They want to be tested, they want to grow. And so putting them into real world situations where, like, Derek, maybe, you know, he almost said, I threw him under the bus. But then he’s like, No, no, I, like wasn’t throwing him under the bus. It was really, he had been prepared. And as I founded that robotics team, very quickly, my husband jumped on board and he has done an amazing job with the marketing presentation team and the the engineering manual team. So our students don’t just speak really well. But they are learning technical writing, which is an amazing skill to have. We talked yesterday about how communicating and writing is a really important skill.
A Huge important skill, Yeah, we looking for interns. That’s, that’s Yes. Huge skill for us.
Shelly Gruenig 16:51
Right. And a lot of the young people that are in our program, they have no idea what we’re doing, but we do and that’s okay. So anyway, the story I was telling you I was relating yesterday was early on on the team. Sometimes I have these crazy ideas and you know, my good friends, they, they tolerate it and the kids, hopefully they benefit from it. But I had this idea and I sent a mom to drive this group of kids, because of course, none of them at the time were even old enough to drive and they took a couple of trophies and I said, Go to City Hall and talk to anyone who will listen to you today.
And I know if you ask the mom that I sent to drive, I could tell by the look on her face. She thought I was crazy. And I shared with you yesterday. A lot of times, I instill the confidence in kids and things that I don’t necessarily want to do myself haha but I don’t let them know that so anyway, Derek, don’t tell anybody that.
So I sent them to City Hall and they came back three hours later talking nonstop and so excited because they had went and and they had started talking to people and as they were talking to people, they happened to meet the mayor of our town. And it’s a good sized town where the third largest city in the state of New Mexico, and he ended up clearing his calendar, inviting them into his office and talking with them about leadership, about their team about their experiences for well over an hour.
Shelly Gruenig 18:22
Yes, and it was a connection that has led to a relationship with the mayor’s office it helps the help those kids and the entire team of kids realize this is a possibility like people are within reach. adults want to hear what we have to say adults are excited when we can shake their hand look them in the eye and carry on a conversation. And so it’s just those simple things of of putting students in in those situations to to really not only does it benefit our kids, it benefits us they’re going to be paying our social security right?
Like we need them to do great things and, and to be greater than average and and so that’s kind of the dream behind all of that that I just consistently I mean solidworks is the same thing I said to Derek Hey, let’s go to a cell there’s this thing called a solidworks user group. Let’s go to that because you’ve got these skills. I want to get you around adults who are doing this stuff because you can learn and
And the great thing about the solid works user group is then our user group, President William Ratigan was so welcoming and has been that you know, the group lights up when we show up right because there’s a group of students interested in this crazy right?
Shelly Gruenig 19:47
And I guess if if if I could encourage people current encourage adults out there to really just take a risk and not only learn yourself, learn more yourself but Go out and mentor young people because because they’re worth it and you don’t have to be the expert I am not an expert solidworks you know my goal is to get Derek solidworks certified here in the next year he doesn’t necessarily know him along with other kids because because I know what a difference it’s going to make to their future.
And so it’s I call it giving them competitive advantage right like
Oh true, absolutely.
Shelly Gruenig 20:28
Any anything that they can put in their pocket that gives them an experience that they can talk to others about and connect with and and you know, he’s searching for opportunities I am confident that he’s going to do amazing things and
I’m not too worried.
Shelly Gruenig 20:45
no no but but uh a really important topic I think to to address is mentoring mentors.
So by by really encouraging our kids and mentoring What we really can do is open up powerful, powerful doors of opportunity so that they can become mentors themselves. And, you know, I guess if you ask yourself, why would we want to do that? Well, think about the powerful experiences that you’ve had in your life. Maybe you’ve taught maybe as a young person, you, you taught someone, even a board game, just what that does for what it really truly does for your ego and your skills and your your ability to problem solve and explain something. We all know when you teach a course or you teach someone something, actually the person who wins the person who learns the most is probably you, right?
Shelly Gruenig 21:49
So as I go out and teach things, so that’s very quickly we started doing these camps and classes and I realized why am I doing these camps and classes these these kids here with me are way cooler right to these young kids that were teaching and and they can value they can they can learn more. I tell the team frequently I could build a robot if I wanted but but why? Like I’d rather have them build the robot. That’s not what I’m trying to learn.
So they become the experts. We allow them to step into that expert role. We coach them along the way. We give them courage. We build their faith in themselves. And then very soon, their role modeling and just being amazing mentors to young people, and they’re leading what we call on the team leading from behind, they’re asking questions rather than giving answers and that’s just such a powerful way to learn.
Shelly Gruenig 22:52
So I I want to just encourage adults to engage because you don’t have to be the expert. I started robotics team with no knowledge about robotics, I promise you now I did pick the one that I figured I could make the most difference in. As I was a little girl, I learned how to use power tools in my daddy’s garage. So when there was one that involved the best Robotics Competition actually involves cutting using wood, PVC nuts and bolts to build a robot. I thought I could, I could help mentor them to do this, you know, and it would be fun for me.
But it’s grown into crazy so much more than that. So
that’s, that’s awesome. It’s such a great story. And I think we have so many designers and engineers that are involved in mentoring their programs, but I think you’ve taken it to another level I think there’s a challenge out there for designers, entrepreneurs, engineers to to mentor their local robotics teams or or whatever or create their own tool kit or classroom as you’ve done it’s just a great message that you’ve affected thousands of students with robotics and not all of them are the technical on the technical side, there’s so many great skills. So that’s a great message.
Shelly Gruenig 24:05
I want to share that on the team. Over the years, we have consistently had 50% girls on our team. And I think I told you a story yesterday that just sort of my philosophy about that is that that boys come through the front door they’re like look at that cool robot I want to build that brand and the girls come through what I say the side door because they say well I could come help with the exhibit booth that would be kind of cool and and so we we sort of entice them and bring them in through relationships and then very quickly teach them to use power tool or how to program or you know, and and introduce them to another part and and build their confidence and and get them into the STEM activities that we so need young women to take part in
exactly and they can find it almost naturally find where their expertise or their interests lie, right?
Shelly Gruenig 25:03
Absolutely. Absolutely. I will say as far as solid works, goes early on, our local reseller offered an amazing opportunity to the team and Derek got to partake in that they offered an opportunity to occasionally give us a seat in a class where they’re teaching solidworks for a week.
Derek Sanchez 25:26
It was the solidworks essentials class. Yeah,
Shelly Gruenig 25:30
Right. So Derek got to go partake in that. So you know, everybody can do something from where they’re at. You don’t have time to mentor people often think mentoring takes a lot of time and you know it can take a lot of time but even just from wherever you’re at if you’re offering a solidworks course and have the possibility of you know, taking one seat or or just inviting a group of students in to inspire them and teach them a little bit about that the field of competitive robotics has has been growing across the country and its really become kind of a national movement in a way.
And there are lots of opportunities to engage with that. Because my sort of my next mission I think I shared with you is really trying to create more of a connection between that competitive robotics and the world of work the world of real careers like those internships and so if you have listeners that are interested in like connecting on that level I’d love to hear from people and they can get ahold of us at our website https://begreaterthanaverage.org/ just to the contact and that those emails come to us but if they’re they have an idea or they’re interested in pursuing that or they want to they want to their coaching their kids robotics team and they need a little assistance
you can point them in the right direction,
Shelly Gruenig 26:58
Right. Yes, yes. So That’s I’m trying to build now a platform that’s going to connect more of that because I think that there’s more and more people getting involved in competitive robotics,
Shelly Gruenig 27:10
I think the big thing, someone told me yesterday that they went to a competition. And what they observed was that when the robot had problems at this particular competition, a bunch of adults came around and solved the problem of the robot. And I assured her that at any competition I was at a particularly it depends on the competition that you’re involved in. But that, you know, why are we doing that to our kids, when the adults step in to solve the problem that makes the kids think they’re no longer the experts, they no longer have enough knowledge to fix that problem.
Thats a great point.
Shelly Gruenig 27:49
And you know what? So what if that robot doesn’t work, right? That is going to that’s going to be coaching for character right, rather than fixing it for them, watching there and being there as they fail forward, maybe into heap of tears. But, but that’s okay because those are powerful life changing lessons for our kids.
And it’s so true. It’s so hard as a parent, you want to, you want to help them out. But there’s a fine line between helping them and letting them fail and learning from it. So it’s, it’s, we, we typically want to help. But then sometimes we just have to say, you know what, you can figure it out and guess what they usually do eventually? Maybe the first time but they’ll get the hang of it.
Shelly Gruenig 28:36
Yeah, there’s a definite definitely not the first time so well, this was great.
Shelly Gruenig 28:40
This is greatly everything I forgot to mention. I really thought I think we have a great story here. So
Shelly Gruenig 28:46
Well, one other thing that I just want to point out is that really all of this began when William Ratigan invited the kids to do a presentation we take our team out to do a lot of presentations in the community. We do a ton, a ton of outreach, and at this particular presentation, they presented to entrepreneurs, a whole room full of entrepreneurs, probably close to 100 entrepreneurs,
Shelly Gruenig 29:10
about how we use solidworks to build our robot. You know, in the beginning, we used to build the robot and then make a pretty solidworks picture to match it, because that’s the skill level we were at. But now the team itself is that design it in solidworks, test it in solidworks and then build the robot and we understand we only have 42 days in this competition from start to competition.
That’s right. I forgot there was a time limit.
Shelly Gruenig 29:37
A very short time timeframe and anyway so we walked off that stage because unfortunately, Derek had these awesome solidworks animations that we were going to show but our license expired that day. haha We weren’t able to show them and so that is the day that we met Marie planter.
Shelly Gruenig 29:58
And she has been supporting our efforts to reach out to young people and and what I call, you know, share the solidworks love across the country as we’ve reached out to young people and and taught them a little bit about this very powerful tool
Shelly Gruenig 30:16
Thanks to her.
and Marie Planter is our Director of Education and she’s she was an educator herself and so she knows that she’s been here a long time and it’s great. She’s great at getting the word out and investing in education for our future entrepreneurs.
Derek Sanchez 30:32
There we go.
This is great be greater than average this excellent.
Thank you for listening today. And remember if you are a mentor and educator for one to help our youth with STEM or other ways to learn technology know that you have a great resource with solidworks education solutions. we have plenty of free offerings for students so please visit our education page at https://solidworks.com/education. Also, as Shelley mentioned, her website offers many resources to help you get started at https://BeGreaterThanAverage.org . And you can also listen to their podcast. If you search for STEM, Southwest podcasts (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stem-southwest) wherever you find podcasts will be back again soon with more great born to design podcast stories at https://solidworks.com/podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on innovating.
One last thing. I really hope that what you heard today has inspired you. If you enjoyed it, please head over to iTunes. Search for the Born To Design Podcast and please leave a five star review so that this podcast will be recommended to more people helping us expand the born and design community. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai