Paul Johnson – This Is How I Work

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Paul has been a mentor on team 1429 since its inception. He teaches engineering and is one of the go-to mentors in Texas for help with building strong Chairman’s Award presentations and teams. Paul has been working on inspiring students and improving their lives for many years. He talks below about his career teaching engineering and photography.

[Responses from October 3, 2013; Updated on May 6, 2014]

Name: Paul W. Johnson 

CD Username: pjohn1959
Current Gig/Job: Engineering teacher at Galena Park High School
Alma Mater/Degree: The University of Houston, B.S. Industrial Distribution
Current Team(s): FRC team 1429
Former Team(s): -none-
Location: Galena Park,
Hobbies: Golf, Reading, and my dogs
What inspired you to do
what you do? Tell us a story
My father worked for
NASA here in Houston. My childhood
heroes were astronauts and the space program. 
I guess I have always enjoyed working on, and building things. When I got to Galena Park, they needed a co-mentor for the robotics program. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but after one semester I found that robots was my new obsession. I learned a lot that first year, mainly studying how teams were organized and how they ran their program. I was drawn to how outreach programs helped inspire students. From that moment, I knew my calling was to the Chairman’s program. I have never claimed to be a ‘robot’ person, but I do think I understand the workings of a successful Chairmans program, having won 4 RCA’s. I have already picked up 2 new teams to help mentor for the 2015 season, so I am looking forward to a very productive year.
What is your day job,
and how’d you get there?
I teach two engineering
classes. These are both associated
with the Project Lead The Way organization. The first one is Principles of Engineering, and the other is Aerospace
Engineering. I also teach a Commercial
Photography class.
What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?
My favorite story is how
we worked to change the culture of the students in our program. When I first started, our team president was
a Hispanic female. She was also number
one in her class.  She was planning on
going to the University of Texas and getting an engineering degree. Her father was very much against this, and
told her that she should stay at home with the family. After many discussions with her parents, they
finally conceded to letting her go and attend U.T. This paved the way for her two younger
sisters who went on to graduate and attend colleges and enter the engineering
What’s your favorite robot that you didn’t help build?
That’s easy, the 2008 robot from FRC Team 1114, Simbot SS. Their solution to the autonomous (hybrid) period was truly
ingenious. Then, their simple design
helped them to dominate the 2 minute driver controlled period.
What apps/software/tools
can’t you live without? (Work/Robotics/Home)
My favorite program to
use is Excel.  I find I can use it for
most document creation. I also use Photoshop
and Coral Draw for graphic creations.
The apps that I really
like to use are Satellite Tracker, so I can watch them fly overhead at night,
FRC Spyder to keep up with current scores from other regionals, and VEX Via to
track VEX competitions.
What’s your workspace
setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home)
I do not have an office
in the robotics room. I have to bring my
materials with me. At home, I have a
laptop set up on the table in front of the couch, so I can watch TV and work at
the same time.
What do you listen to
while you work?
I usually get to listen
to the kids screaming and having fun. I
am also indulged with their hip-hop music they like to have blaring in the
robotics room. I prefer peace and quiet,
but I give that up to have the kids be productive.
What’s your schedule like during build season?
My robotics work
schedule is usually Monday through Friday 2:30 to 6:00 pm. Then, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. Our school district does not allow us to work
on Sundays.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I don’t think that there is anything
that I do that is better than anyone else. I do like to support my kids and help them succeed in whatever they are
trying to accomplish.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never give up. Make your dreams a reality. This was told to me by my parents when I was
going to college. This inspired me to
finish and get my degree.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I guess that I’m a
Homer. I like to see teams from the
United States win. The latest was watching Oracle Team USA come back from an
8-1 deficit, to defeat Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th
Americas’ Cup. The robotics team watched
the final races with me in the room.
Fill in the blank. I’d love to see ________ answer
these same questions.

Glenn Lee (FRC 359). 
“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger
honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget
them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the
journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the
face of God.'”
– Ronald