April 7-14 is National Volunteer Week. Learn how one of our staff members generously donates to his local community.

John Vergauwen

John Vergauwen, Assistant Finance Manager for the Franciscan Life Center, and a Watertown, Connecticut resident donates his time and talent promoting Watertown High School’s Robotics Team 237. This is John’s ninth year working with the Robotics Team, having started when his son, now a college graduate, was involved with the program.

John reflects on his involvement, “I believe in this program because it teaches students real life skills used in the real world. The students learn to strategize, design and build a new robot every year that they participate on the team. They participate ‘on teams within the team’ working on programming, mechanical/fabrication, electrical/wiring, marketing and fundraising. They also learn team-building skills and cooperation with other teams during competitions. The robotics program builds on whatever STEM education the schools provide.”

John knows the benefits of the Robotics Team Program. He has seen first-hand how it builds life skills. He witnessed the Team’s willingness to go “above the call” when they built a standing chair for a young man paralyzed from a car accident. “This is a ‘real life’ situation and these young men and women rose to the occasion for the good of another,” John commented. He added, “Technology is not my strong point. My role on the team is ‘behind the scenes.’  I assist the team by arranging fundraising events so we can travel to the competitions, purchase equipment and supplies needed to build the robot. I love being part of this Robotics Team as just one cog in the whole process even if it is from the ‘back room.'”

 This year’s Robotic theme is the 50th Anniversary of Space Travel. Each level of FIRST programs has a “Space Travel Theme.” Watertown High School’s Robotics Team 237 competed at Wilby High School in Waterbury, March 6 – 8, 2019. John and Team 237 traveled to Maine April 4-6, and qualified for the New England District Championship competition. There are 203 teams competing in 12 New England District Competitions. Sixty-four teams will compete in the New England District Championships in mid-April, with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the World Championships in Detroit at the end of April.

John is married to Cyndi. They have two children and have lived in Watertown for 20 years.

The robotics team built a wheelchair for a young man who was paralyzed from a car accident.

The Watertown High School robotics team built a standing chair for a young man who was paralyzed from a car accident. (Photo courtesy of Michael Kabelka.)