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Thomas Francisco “Cisco” Martinez Jr., 54, died Jan. 5, 2018, in Juneau. He was born Aug. 21, 1963, in Ketchikan.
Reverse-order mentoring: Robotics team members help elders get handle on iPads
Tacoma Coronel, kneeling, and Judy Hanson work on an iPad, as Corrie and Nicole Embree work with Gladys Klose (obscured, sitting on chair) at the left, recently at the Ketchikan Pioneers' Home. Photo by Hilary Koch


Daily News Staff Writer

Fawn Mountain Elementary members of the "Lifesavers" robotics team, have been focusing on community service this school year, mentoring elders and launching a high-powered food drive.

The team of about 10 students has been working to fulfill the First Lego League 2012 challenge: "Senior Solutions."

They have been helping seniors at the Ketchikan Pioneers’ Home learn how to use technology to keep in touch with distant family members, in an effort to address loneliness in the elderly, Fawn Mountain paraprofessional Jessie Embree said.

Some of the seniors are considering purchasing iPads, and the robotics team has some designated for its use, so they used those in a teaching session to guide the residents through the use of videoconferencing programs like Facetime for the iPad, and Skype for residents with their own computers.

Embree said Pioneers’ Home administration also is considering seeking grant money or other options to give residents iPads.

The students have been teaching skills such as navigating iPad applications and systems, and hope to set up a regular visiting schedule, Embree said.

"It was adorable though — it was the cutest thing," Embree said, adding, "It was an awesome gap that was bridged between generations."

Embree said the team’s food drive started simply as a fundraiser for the robotics team, so it could travel to the First Lego League Juneau Jamboree Robotics competition on Saturday.

About 10 students are planning to compete in Juneau, with coaches Tina Peckham and Kathy Paulson. Embree has been a volunteer parent with the team for a few years, and said she has two children involved.

Team members approached First Bank, among other potential donors, for help, and Embree said First Bank vice-president and community development officer Sheila Kleinschmidt suggested they go further and create a fundraiser that also would embrace community service.

First Bank offered to match up to $3,000 for the value of food collected.

"So, we launched a very large food drive at Fawn Mountain," Embree said.

By the time the three-week food drive ended on Nov. 20, the team had collected 3,017 pounds of food for The Salvation Army, more than enough for the match, allowing the team to afford to travel to Juneau.

A few things contributed to their success, Embree said. Classrooms competed for top contributor, for instance.

Daily emails and newsletters with updates on the progress of the food drive also kept students and staff motivated she said.

"People were just driven more because there were so many benefits," she said, not only for the robotics team, but for the entire school and the community.

The school held an assembly on the Friday after the drive’s end, and Upshaw presented the top-winning classes with awards. Jane Blasingame’s kindergarten class and Andria Moss’ fourth-grade class tied for first place, having collected 469 items each, Embree said.

"There’s some pretty healthy competition going on out here," she said.