Our Mentors

Top, L-R: Joe Chludzinski, Will Ryan, Gerry Pothier III, Rick O’Donnell, Maciej Wiczynski, Dean Casciola Bottom: Shashank Bakra, Arshad (and Nalia) Khan, Meredith Palmer, (Cora Wiczynski), Eleanor O’Neill, Vikas Aher, Raj Datar, Tony Trofimow Insets: Matt Coleman, Roberta and Gerry Pothier, Jason Chludzinski, Steve Castellarin

Arshad Khan serves not only as 2876’s Head Mentor, but also as a math teacher here at Burlington High School. When he’s not busy posing for the camera or creating lesson plans for his motley calculus, geometry, and algebra classes, Arshad facilitates the club’s business endeavors, creates regular meeting agendas, and assists the mechanical team with their daily tasks. Arshad also takes care of buying new parts and re-supplying our team’s limited stocks whenever necessary. Zealous about Robotics and even more enthusiastic about instructing, Arshad taught an “Introduction to Robotics” course for the first time in 2015-16. This course, offered as an elective to all grades, serves to inspire the next generation of robot-enthusiasts.
Meredith Palmer is a math teacher at Burlington High. During the school day, Meredith teaches Geometry, Pre-Calculus and a second-year computer programming course based in C++. In addition to mentoring for the Devilbotz, she is also a class advisor and an advisor for the school’s math league. Meredith was introduced to the Robotics club through Mr. Khan and has thoroughly enjoyed guiding the students through their engineering goals during her first year. Once the school year ends, Meredith plans to spend most of her time at the beach (see picture!).
Maciej Wiczynski has been our programming team’s Head Mentor ever since 2876’s first few days. With his extensive knowledge of Java and his years of experience working for Oracle, Mr. Wiczynski is undoubtedly an integral asset to our club. Passionate yet methodical, Mr. Wiczynski is usually the first to bring the entire club together to discuss specific details regarding prototyping, driving, and finally constructing our robot. Mr. Wiczynski cares deeply about the process taken to get to a final answer; getting the correct answer simply does not cut it for him. His unique style revolves around empowering his mentees: whenever they are presented with a formidable challenge (such as a bug in the code), he lets them experiment and attempt to solve the problem themselves before chiming in with one of his many helpful hints.
Gerry Pothier II always tries to keep everyone and everything organized. He is a mechanical mentor and oversees team logistics. A mentor of Team 2876 since 2009, Mr. Pothier has seen many students learn the FIRST principles and go on to college working toward degrees in science and technology. He firmly believes that Robotics helps build a well rounded student prepared for the real world. He believes that everyone on the team has a voice; no one is ever left out on his watch. Mr. Pothier enjoys riding his motorcycle year round to relax and unwind. He is currently a student helicopter pilot, and has flown five different helicopters including a 1970 Bell 47G.
Roberta Pothier has been a behind-the-scenes mentor for many years. After realizing how important robotics was to her son Gerry, she became more involved by helping the Devilbotz get noticed within the community. Four years ago, Roberta and Gerry started a robotics program at the Francis Wyman Elementary School for 5th graders, including her daughter Michelle, who is now on the team. This program was so successful that it’s now run in all four elementary schools in the district, and has spawned a similar program in the middle school. Roberta has been in banking for over 30 years and currently works for one of the team’s sponsors, Hanscom Federal Credit Union. For Roberta and her husband Gerry, it goes without saying this is a family affair when it comes to robotics. The Pothiers’ vision has always been to help robotics programs permeate the Burlington community and inspire students of all ages to an interest in engineering.
Gerry Pothier III has been associated with the Devilbotz since 2007, first as a student and now as a mentor. He is very encouraging in his approach with students and believes that everyone has something to contribute. Gerry concentrates on mentoring the Mechanical group. He credits his time on the team for inspiring him to pursue a career in engineering. Gerry has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Wentworth Institute of Technology and now works at Solid Material Solutions, and describes himself as a physics nerd who loves robotics, engineering, and collaborative problem solving.
From running the scouting team to teaching team members how to code, Rick O’Donnell has many responsibilities. When teaching HTML to team members, Mr. O’Donnell leads them to reach their own conclusions, helping them in the long run. Mr. O’Donnell is adept at combining different ideas, leaving everyone happy. When he is not helping at Robotics, Mr. O’Donnell is working hard for Akamai. He enjoys spending time with family, playing board games, and volunteering at his church. Mr. O’Donnell is a big fan of the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Syracuse Orangemen.
Joe Chludzinski has been helping out the Mechanical Team ever since his son joined Team 2876 in 2010. As a current Technician at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, Mr. C, as we affectionately call him, takes pride in watching his students grow in confidence as they learn more about the realm of Robotics. He enjoys passing on his expertise to his mentees, and always stresses the importance of safety wear in the shop. Because of his background in electronics, Mr. C also assists our team with computer problems, such as installing new graphics cards, and fixing Blue Screens of Death (BSoDs).

Eleanor O’Neill is a software engineer at Cybergrants. This is her fifth season mentoring for the DevilBotz. She previously mentored with BERT 133 in Maine for three years. Eleanor particularly likes the competition because “it is a team sport, but for nerds like me”.

Ms O’Neill had a varied background including Editorial Assistant; Graphic Design and Prepress; teaching graphic software to designers and art students; administering computer networks; and then transitioned into a software career using a variety of languages: perl, PHP, Java, Python, React and more; and finally an affinity for databases. On a side note: a passion for space exploration.

Dean Casciola helps work with the electrical team to wire the robots, install sensors, and teach the programming team how to use the sensors properly. Outside of Robotics, Dean works at Haigh-Farr as an electrical Radio Frequency (RF) Engineer and this is his 5rd year mentoring Robotics. Dean has a pilot license and in his spare time flies airplanes, including one he built from a kit. He joined Robotics because his son got him involved in the club and he developed an interest as an electrical mentor. He is married to Ms. O’Neill.
Anthony Trofimow is a Financial Advisor and Limited Partner with Edward Jones. He currently works with the business team, identifying potential sponsors and helping apply for grants. He became involved with the robotics through his son’s involvement. He loves traveling, Boston sports teams, and spending time with family.
Shashank Bakra enjoys mentoring the team for electrical and electronics engineering skills. He has Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. He currently works at Keurig Green Mountain and has more than 20 years of electrical and electronics research, design, development and management experience. He has one daughter Shirin Bakre leading the team in 2018 and one waiting eagerly to join once she finishes Middle School.
Stephen Castellarin is a Cyber Security analyst and engineer who builds systems and software to defend systems and networks. He has also managed Security and Networking teams. Steve loves to tinker with anything computers – from building up a home network to having fun with Raspberry Pi’s. Other things he loves include: photography, playing guitar, playing video games and playing with the family’s German Shepherd.
mentor Jason Chludzinski
Jason Chludzinski is an alumnus of the team from the 2010 season. He has his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UMass Amherst. He currently works at Friend Lumber while looking to start a career in his field. He serves as a mentor for the mechanical team and typically helps the team with field elements, often getting required materials from work to help save the team some time and money. He likes to stress forward thinking towards his mentees and get them thinking more about the necessary details.
mentor Matt Coleman
Matt Coleman is an alumnus of the team starting back in 2009. He has his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire. He currently works at Millipore Sigma as a designer. He serves as one of the mechanical team and helps with working on the robot and giving guidance from past experience and through work. He tries to help the students learn engineering skills as well as make it enjoyable for the students regardless of their experience.
Raj Datar
Raj Datar helps the electrical team build and troubleshoot the robot. He works at Elcom International as Implementation and Support Engineer. He has an undergraduate degree in Electronics and a Masters in IT Management from Brandeis University. His daughter, Anusha, got him into mentoring the Devilbotz, and we hope that after his son Eshaan graduates, he’ll continue to provide his expertise to the team. He says he likes the ‘hands-on’ nature of the robotics program. Apart from electronics, he has an active interest in photography.
Vikas Aher enjoys helping the Devilbotz with programming and game strategy. He is in his second year mentoring the team. Vikas has more than 20 years of experience in Programming, a bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering, and interest in teaching.
Will (Billy) Ryan, another alumnus of the team’s earliest years, joined the Devilbotz in 2017-18 as a mechanical mentor.

Mentors Emeritus

Michael Malec joined our Robotics team in December 2013. He was been stationed at Hanscom Air Force as a test flight engineer since July 2013, and became a major addition ever since joining our team. Our team has greatly benefited from his introduction of group management, brainstorming tactics, and other major concepts. Outside of robotics, Mike enjoys a variety of activities, such as running, biking, skiing, hiking, and rollerblading. As Mike always says, “Don’t start counting ’till after it hurts.”

The team is sad that “Military Mike” left us after the 2015-2016 season.

Lawrence Chiodi, a Burlington High Alumni, was with Team 2876 for upwards of three years. His area of expertise lies in assisting the electrical team with anything and everything they need help with. Mr. Chiodi worked as both a Design Engineer and an Engineering Manager. Currently, he holds the position of Field Applications Engineer at Renesas Electronics, one of our past amazing sponsors. He is extremely knowledgeable both in and out of his field, and was truly an integral member of our team.