Rebecca Rayner, far left, competing as part of the Oakville Trafalgar High School FIRST Robotics Team

For two Waterloo Engineering students, their experience with FIRST Robotics in high school was the catalyst to their enrolling in the Management Engineering program.

Jordan Grant, 21, and Rebecca Rayner, 22, are in their third and fourth years of Waterloo’s Management Engineering program respectively.

Their career interests and paths were very different, but they both found exactly what they wanted in Management Engineering.

Not long ago both were competing against each other at the FIRST Robotics competition where teams of students design, build and program industrial-size robots over a six-week period to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors.

Jordan Grant, 3rd Year Management Engineering Student

Jordan Grant, 3rd Year Management Engineering Student

“I was just amazed that kids my age could actually build these amazing capable robots,” said Jordan, remembering when he first signed up. That led him to take part in FIRST Robotics from 2011 to 2014, representing the Crescent School in Toronto.

“That’s where I first fell in love with programming,” he said. “It was an activity that defined my interest and helped me pick my university program.”

During the competitions, he loved the emphasis on tactics. “Our team was quite competitive, so we placed an emphasis on strategy and scouting, and being aware of the teams around us,” he said.

“Management Engineering is all about using data to make good decisions. We definitely had a lot of that,” he added.

Rebecca admitted that initially, programming and mechanical/electrical engineering weren’t her favourites. (That’s since changed.) But she loved how the various teams worked together when she competed for Oakville Trafalgar High School. She focused on her team’s media relations, business management, and community outreach.

FIRST Robotics fun leads to enrolling in Management Engineering

During her three years as a FIRST Robotics competitor, she loved the event’s energy. “I’ve never been in a place where everyone is so passionate about what they do,” said Rebecca, who has since been a FIRST volunteer and mentor for the past five years.

FIRST Robotics sparked my interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the types of problems engineers face, but made me realize that I like focusing more on the big picture and problem solving,” said Rebecca.

“Now that I’m in the program, I absolutely love it,” added Rebecca, who hopes to work as an industrial engineer in manufacturing, warehousing, or in a logistics environment. “I totally found the right program for me.”

“By being exposed to Waterloo’s different courses and disciplines you catch on to what you care about and find that special area. For me, I fell into mobile development,” said Jordan, who has his sights set on becoming a product manager for a tech company. “I was able to find my path because of my experience with FIRST Robotics.”

To show his appreciation of what FIRST did for him, Jordan tapped into his creative side, writing two songs, along with videos, titled “Feelin’ My Bot” and “One Bot Can Change the World,” which have since become widely popular in the FIRST community.

Waterloo’s Management Engineering program gives students the skills to design, implement, and manage complex management systems by using industrial engineering principles, math, analytics, and computer programming. Students gain a strong background in data analytics, information systems, operations and supply chain management, and organizational behaviour. With students learning the skills to cut waiting times for surgery, streamline supply chains or fine-tune airline routes, it’s no surprise companies are looking for graduates’ skills in software, finance, supply chain management, healthcare, manufacturing, and other fields.

Waterloo hosts FIRST Robotics for the 14th time March 23rd 2018 – March 24th 2018.