While the development of TETRIX®
Robotics is the foundation for the building system, it takes more people on the team to spread the word about it – from graphic artists to copywriters. Here we meet two more people who work to spread the word about the robotics system.
Pam Scifers: TETRIX Champion
The newest member of the Pitsco robotics team is anything but new to TETRIX. Pamela Scifers, who became Pitsco’s robotics and international marketing manager this April, has worked with TETRIX for years.
“I was an employee of the Pitsco-LEGO®
joint venture, and I worked with LEGO Education for nine years prior to joining the Pitsco team this year,” she said. “In my time with LEGO Education, I actually worked with TETRIX when it first hit the market and became an approved platform for FTC [FIRST®
In recent years, she transitioned from high school to elementary robotics. She was also part of the core team that launched the WeDo 2.0 system of robotics before coming to Pitsco.
So why would someone move from a well-known company to become a marketing manager at a smaller company?
Whether in competitions or in the classroom, TETRIX Robotics touches a huge number of students' lives.
“I happen to know the team of people I was going to be working with, and I knew that they were extremely passionate about TETRIX Robotics and about the impact that it could have in both the competitive robotics setting and in the classroom,” Pam said. “Being able to work with these guys and the rest of the Pitsco team on a daily basis was definitely appealing to me.”
But there is also a deeper meaning to her choice.
“It's important to me to have some sort of purpose, and knowing that Pitsco’s products and services make a difference in the lives of educators and children is extremely fulfilling for me. It was a hugely motivating factor when I was looking at what I was going to do next. Staying in education was something I was interested in.”
Along with her experience at LEGO Education, Pam has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business management. On the TETRIX team, she handles everything from catalogs to email marketing, but there’s more to it than producing marketing materials.
“I also work really closely with the team on the creation of new parts and pieces and product launches,” she said. “And we work closely to develop the strategy for the robotics line going forward.”
Despite all this experience with robotics, Pam admits that building and operating robots is something she’s not very comfortable with.
“The fact that I’ve marketed robotics products for years is bananas to me because I am not a technical person, but I think that helps,” she said. “I feel like I’m constantly asking Tim [Lankford, robotics application specialist] ‘What does this part do?’ ‘What’s the benefit?’ and he has to explain it to me – not in technical terms but in human terms."
“That's one of the reasons I like doing it because it’s not familiar and it’s not comfortable for me; I know that’s probably some of the issues that our customers are struggling with. So if I can wrap my brain around it and present the information in a way that’s usable and digestible for our customers, hopefully that will help them.”
PJ Graham: Writer turned herald of hands-on learning
Note: As author of the TETRIX team posts, I wrote the following in first person instead of awkwardly writing about myself in third person.
It feels strange to be considered part of the TETRIX®
team. Not because I don’t love TETRIX – I do. What’s not to love about getting to build robots at work and being among the first to use a system or its new parts?
But as an English major who struggled to pass a mandatory college physics class, I sometimes feel like a poser. But that’s the great thing about working with this team and with TETRIX – even if robotics are not in your wheelhouse, you can succeed if you put forth some effort.
Coming to Pitsco 15 years ago, I started in the editing department and loved the work there for 3-1/2 years, picking up quite a bit of product knowledge in the process. When a technical writing position opened, I knew the change and getting back to writing would be good for me, but I had no idea how much I would learn in the process! Writing user guides for Pitsco products means learning how to put them together and use them. Whether it was a new catapult kit or redesigned dragster launcher, I was one of the first people to lay hands on it.
It was during this 10 years of technical writing that I first experienced TETRIX while working on its first creator’s guide. R&D’s Paul Uttley and I wrote it, created images, and desktop published it in just three weeks. But even with the rush of a tight deadline, it was obvious that TETRIX had great potential.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to move to the e-Commerce team to develop content for Pitsco’s websites. A good part of the initiative to create this position was www.TETRIXrobotics.com
– it was obvious that the teachers, mentors, and students involved in robotics ranged from struggling beginners to experienced competitors. We knew more content was needed to support these different users.
Since then, I’ve learned to build articles and landing pages for websites, kept things running smoothly (and brought the doughnuts) behind the scenes on Tim Lankford’s RoboBench series, uploaded robot builds (including my own robotic holiday tree), updated competition and product information, and so on.
Inspiration gained from attending competitions is invaluable.
Another part of this job is writing focused. In addition to web copy and TETRIX blog posts, I attend robotics competitions such as SkillsUSA’s Robotics: Urban Search & Rescue and the FIRST
Championship to meet competitors and find feature stories for The Gearhead Report
. These events keep us fueled because it’s hard not to feel the excitement when meeting students who enthusiastically learn physics, engineering, coding, and more to improve their competition robot. Whether they know it or not, they inspire us to come back and do better work.
Echoing Pam’s sentiment, I enjoy working at Pitsco because of who we help. From the beginning, we’ve been about helping different kinds of learners find success and encouraging them to keep learning.
Growing up watching my older brother, who struggled with dyslexia but excelled every time he could work with his hands, makes me painfully aware of how activities such as robotics (or CO2
dragsters, structure building, siege machines, or any other hands-on educational activity) can level the playing field for all types of learners. I’m also aware that some students don’t get these activities, though they should.
That’s what we work for, because every kid should have a chance to shine. That’s the Pitsco way