Graduate Helps to Keep Robots in the Game

Mar 23, 2019

Sean Grivna volunteers in the machine shop during the annual FIRST Robotics competition at Cal U.

first alumnus

Alumnus Sean Grivna enjoys helping the FIRST Robotics teams so much he takes vacation time to do so. 

An operations manager for PetraFab Inc., a stone fabrication company in Baltimore, Md., Grivna has run a machine and welding shop for FIRST teams in Helsel Hall since the Greater Pittsburgh Regional Competition started taking place at Cal U’s Convocation Center in 2014. 

Initially he served this role when he was a teaching assistant for Dr. Jennifer Wilburn, an assistant professor in Cal U’s Department of Applied Engineering and Technology. 

“She asked if I had any interest in helping the students out in the machine shop,” recalled Grivna, a 2014 graduate who studied technical studies and industrial technology management. “I had a whole bunch of fun, so I decided to do it every year.” 

Since helping that first time, Grivna has taken time off work to return to his alma mater. 

“It’s a three-day vacation,” he said. “I like working with the kids every year and seeing how they progress and come up with answers to challenges.” 

Jeff Laurenson, a mentor for the second-year Brashear Bulls Robotics team, was grateful after Grivna cut a bracket to fit his team’s robot’s bumper frame. 

“For significant cuts you need a metal shop; you can’t do that in the pits,” said Laurenson, who teaches calculus and robotics at Brashear High School, in Pittsburgh, Pa. “He was incredibly helpful and saved me a whole lot of time.” 

Grivna looks forward to returning next year. 

“My education at Cal U has helped me take a company from $2.3 million to soon breaking $4.7 million as well as creating an entire base platform and how to measure metrics for the company,” he explained. 

“Will I be here next year? Yes, sir.”