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Meet Our Mentors

The people listed below are Team 2404's mentors.

We are incredibly grateful for their mentorship.


John Smith
Founded the team in 2008 

Lead Mentor

John Smith is the director and founder of NEY (Neighbors Empowering Youth). He is also one of the main mentors of Team 2404. He is very much a father figure to the team members.


John has helped many youths with learning how to be a better dedicated person.


He has also helped us understand what being part of a FIRST team feels like. He makes it fun and worthwhile for the students to stay on the team. But even with all the fun, we learn at the same time how to work together with one another. He has devoted a great deal of time and a lot of money to our team.


Chris Sulzbach
Joined in 2015

Lead Outreach Mentor

Chris Sulzbach is our outreach mentor he helps us run our social media pages, website, and community outreach and works with our graphic design and marketing students.

Chris is always promoting our team within the local community. He was instrumental in having the local school district staff and local community leaders tour our robotics space on our kick-off day in 2019. He also helps us design most of our flyers and promotional materials. During the pandemic, he helped us transition to virtual Zoom meetings. In Spring 2022, he helped transition back to in-person and recruit mentors from Caltech and JPL. He is an alumnus of our team, having been on from 2015-2017. He is also a member of the John Muir High school engineering and environmental science academy advisory council. His involvement in it has helped to bring in more Muir Students. He also deals with administrative work like scheduling team meetings, sending out team emails, coordinating with mentors and parents, and working with outreach and graphic design students. At the end of 2023, he helped us transition to our new 2024 season build lab at the Jackie Robinson Community Center in Pasadena.


Luis Barragan
Joined in 2013

Lead Programing/3D Printing/CAD/  Mentor

BIO coming soon


Sawyer Brooks

Joined in 2022

Robotics Engineering Mentor

Sawyer Brooks is a Robotics Systems Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and he is a Group Leader for Robot Operations and Testing. He earned a Master’s degree in Robotics from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 and then immediately joined JPL to pursue space robotics.

From 2015 - 2022, Sawyer worked on developing, testing, and operating Perseverance’s Sample Caching Subsystem, which samples rocks on Mars and stores them for future return to Earth. As the Docking Systems Engineer, Sawyer developed and tested algorithms, software, and hardware which the large Robotic Arm uses to drop off rock samples to the Caching Assembly inside the rover. After Perseverance launched in 2020, Sawyer was an Uplink Deputy responsible for developing tools and procedures to safely and successfully operate the sampling system on the surface of Mars. He continued to work on sampling operations through initial commissioning and checkouts, the collection of the first 8 samples, and multiple complex anomalies.

Sawyer is currently the V&V Lead for CADRE, a project developing small lunar rovers which will cooperatively and autonomously explore Earth’s moon. The technology developed for CADRE will pave the way for future space missions to use more autonomy and to include multi-robot systems. Sawyer’s V&V team is responsible for integrating and testing all of the software and hardware across the project, proving that it will work on the moon and paving the way for lunar operations.

Sawyer is also passionate about STEM education. His previous experience includes designing coursework and projects for undergraduate engineering classes at the University of Pennsylvania, developing software for an educational software company, and teaching programming to young students in Philadelphia. In addition to being a mentor for FRC Team 2404, he is a member of the Tinkering School's Mars Advisory Council, advising a program to bring hands-on experience with Mars rover operations into classrooms around the nation.


Noel Csomay-Shanklin
Joined in 2022

Robotics Engineering Mentor

Control and Dynamical Systems Graduate Student Researcher at Caltech. I am captivated by the unique way in which robotics combines mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science concepts to a powerful and unprecedented effect, and I am enthralled by the idea of pushing robotic capabilities to the brink of what is possible.


Emily Fourney
Joined in 2022

Engineering Mentor

Control and Dynamical Systems - Computing and Mathematical Sciences Ph.D. Student Caltech.


Sergio Esteban
Joined in 2022

Engineering Mentor

I am a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology studying robotics, controls and dynamics. My engineering passion is robotics. Through my studies and beyond, I intend to advance the field of robot design, controls, and autonomy. My favorite research topics are currently in control theory and robot mechanical design, however, I am always looking out for something new to learn!


Jake Lee
Joined in 2022

Programing Mentor

I am a data scientist at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Machine Learning and Instrument Autonomy group.


Brian Jaecker-Jones
Joined in 2023
LA Propoint

Engineering Mentor

Brian is a mechanical design engineer with 25 years of experience in fabrication, design, and engineering for the entertainment industry. Brian currently works as a Senior Design Engineer for LA Propoint, a full-service design/fabrication shop building Scenic Automation, Show Action Equipment, and custom Rigging solutions for Theme Parks, Museums and Theaters. Brian is a design lead handling concept development, 3D modeling, detailed design & drafting, technical writing & project documentation.


Brian received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Union College in Schenectady, New York before leveraging experience gained in the Machine Technology certification program at Fullerton College into a diverse career building and designing in nearly every corner of the entertainment industry. His areas of experience include animatronics for film & television, puppetry, custom touring stage equipment & scenery, theme park shows & parade floats, stage illusions, theatrical equipment and show action equipment.


Brian’s son Sam has been a member of Team 2404 since 2022 and Brian is excited to be joining as a Team mentor for the 2023-2024 season.

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