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While a lot of people enjoy the easy life in retirement, others strive to find a hobby or something to keep them occupied. Bob Soderholm ‘59, has found a way to pursue his passion in his golden years: mentoring a robotics team at his local high school that gives him a chance to teach and give to the next generation of engineers. Established 25 years ago, Wright City High School’s robotics club gives students the opportunity to learn all of the various aspects of the club such as designing, prototyping, building, testing, fixing, and rebuilding robots.

When he was in high school, Bob was involved with the school’s ham radio. Now, 60+ years later, he wanted to be able to teach current high school students about the new technologies that are offered.

Q: Were you a part of something similar when you were in high school?
A: There really were no such programs when I was in high school 60 plus years ago. I did get into ham radio however, which I enjoyed very much.

Q: Tell us a bit about your career.
A: After almost four years on active duty in the Navy I went to work in the defense industry. Most of this career was in the aircraft industry working on various avionics systems (radars, EO sensors, radios, IFFs, smart weapons, etc.). I failed retirement three times, finally succeeding almost five years ago. My advice here would be to do a better job mentally preparing for retirement than I did.

Q: How active were you with Kappa Sigma in your undergrad days? Share some of your best memories.
A: I was fairly active serving a year as house manager and a year as GMC. Our chapter had the honor of inducting the new chapter at Georgia State University into Kappa Sigma while I was GMC. Other memories include the saga of the "rock", progressing from one that got stolen and found all over the campus. When it disappeared we got a bigger rock which buried by some our enterprising neighbors. Then we countered with a two ton rock from Stone Mountain set in concrete over the second rock. You haven't got enough paper to cover the memories of the parties in the "pit".

Q: Did you work with robotics at all while attending Georgia Tech?
A: No, Tech didn't get into robotics until quite a while after I graduated. Between the 20 hour quarter course loads and our parties I had to swim like hell just to keep my nose above water.

Q: What is the best part of the alumni experience with the Alpha Tau Chapter?
A: Staying in touch with some of my brothers. I've lived too far away to get back as often as would have liked.

Q: Describe what goes on in an average afternoon with the robotics team. The team meets after school two days a week.
A: Time is spent designing, prototyping, building, testing, fixing, and rebuilding our robot in preparation for competitions. The team also does fund raising to support their effort financially and does community outreach to promote robotics, particularly to younger students.

Q: How does it make you feel to be able to make an impact on young students interested in the field of engineering? Can you point to anyone in Kappa Sig who made a similar impact on you?
A: I enjoy watching students explore ideas and trying new things. Getting them to plan and execute their plan is a bit frustrating, like herding cats, typical with that age group. They will not let you get old. I wish this program had been around when I was in school, but the technology wasn't available. Building a robot controller using vacuum tubes would be about the size of the room we work in.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to provide?
I can't imagine what the technology will be like 50 years from now, I'm going to try to stick around for it.