Jason Lawrence has built one of the region’s top robotics programs at Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
For his work, commitment and leadership, Lawrence was recently named among the Top 25 teachers in Orange County by Parenting OC Magazine.
Lawrence oversees the high school’s robotics team, SMbly Required. The team regularly takes top honors at FIRST Robotics Competitions, which brings together high school robotics programs from across the globe.
“The program is very holistic,” he said. “It touches on all parts of the work force.”
Students in the after-school program learn the fundamentals of engineering and design. They work collaboratively to build robots, while taking on tasks like project management, problem solving, organizational communication and leadership.
“The program incorporates the whole business side of what we do,” he said. “It’s like running an engineering company. Students are the employees and the leadership.”
Students learn from professionals from local universities and engineering firms, who serve as teachers as mentors. Students are also exposed to various industries and career tracks – marketing, business and engineering.
“Students are given a platform to explore their interests,” he said. “One hundred percent of my students can go professional in their field.”
Lawrence volunteered to organize the robotics team, which was founded in 2015.
The team has since earned high honors at many competitions, including the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship where they earned second ranked rookie team in their division.
Lawrence grew up in Michigan attending Christian schools. His teachers had a positive influence on him, and their work inspired him to become a teacher.
“My teachers cared and made a difference in the lives of their students,” he said. “Ministry was something always important to me. Taking God’s word and seeing it make a difference in people’s lives was the most inspirational thing to me.”
The robotics program at Santa Margarita helps students develop concepts they’ve learn in the classroom and often leads them to develop interest in new fields, Lawrence said.
“Anyone can learn robotics,” Lawrence said. “Students don’t need to come in with anything more than a desire to learn, gain new skills and have fun.”