Seneca College Professor honoured for efforts in robotics mentoring

Seneca Prof

Originally published by InsideHalton.ca

A Milton man’s dedication to empowering girls and breaking down barriers in a male-dominated field has earned him the highest honour from Canada’s Governor General.

Dr. Elliott Coleshill recently received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, which is bestowed on Canadians by Governor General David Johnston in recognition of exceptional volunteer achievements in a wide range of fields.

The local resident was nominated by the robotics team of young ladies he mentors at an all-girls school in Oakville via its involvement with FIRST Robotics Canada, a charity that aims to inspire students to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through robotics competitions.

“It’s a huge honour. I’m very proud,” Dr. Coleshill told the Champion before recently receiving the medal at Milton Town Hall from Mayor Gord Krantz.

The Miltonian has been volunteering with FIRST Robotics Canada for over 15 years and is an original mentor of the girls’ team, dubbed SWAT 771.

Dorothy Byers, FIRST Robotics Canada’s board of directors chair, credits the organization’s success to those who give of their time like Dr. Coleshill.

“Over the years, not only has he contributed thousands of hours, but he has also helped the girls gain confidence, develop the understanding that failure leads to deep learning, perseverance is key to success, and creativity and critical thinking lead to excellent planning and execution,” she wrote on the FIRST Robotics Canada website. “He models these skills as he works with the team. One of the girls commented, ‘Dr. Coleshill taught me that there is always an answer, I just have to know what question to ask!’”

In addition to working with the girls on their robot development, Dr. Coleshill has also judged robot design at the FIRST Lego League events at regional, provincial and world levels and is now a member of the Girls in STEM Executive Advisory Council, designed to help break down the barriers of girls in STEM.

The computer science professor at Seneca College admits that he was quickly hooked on mentoring after he joined the program more than a decade ago.

“It’s a great program — one I wish they had when I was in school,” he said. “It really gets the students engaged in STEM activities, and a lot of them will go on to some kind of STEM-related field afterwards. The program is working, and it’s worldwide.”

One needn’t look any further than Dr. Coleshill’s young daughter, Chloe, to understand why he’s motivated to continue mentoring and encouraging girls in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

Krantz presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers on behalf of the Governor General, telling Dr. Coleshill that the “recognition bestowed on you is highly deserved.”

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