arrow downStories

Ben and Doug

Ben and Doug
Connecting Champions

Ben and Doug are matched through Connecting Champions, a Pittsburgh-based organization that pairs young people with cancer with mentors who can help them think beyond their diagnosis and explore things they're truly passionate about.  Ben loves computer science and space, so Connecting Champions paired him with Doug Ellison from the NASA Mars Rover Team. The two friends discuss every aspect of the rover, from its programming to pictures taken of Mars.


“I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something working with computers and have always been super fascinated by what we can do with computers,” said Ben. “Being able to see what other people are doing with computers in space has definitely motivated me to lean towards bigger projects.”


“It’s remarkable to me that someone going through what he’s going through can show up, be engaging, get through high school, get through college,” said Doug on Ben’s persistence and strength. “To do so in the face of the kind of adversity that he’s dealing with is genuinely inspiring.”


Ben recently started college at Michigan Technological University, but this friendship is not slowing down! In addition to always talking about the Mars rover, Ben and Doug use a program that allows them to build hypothetical computers, and they have a blast creating computer programs through their matching Raspberry Pi devices. This friendship is definitely out of this world!


“Those of us who are fortunate enough to be mentoring, we’re the ones getting inspired,” said Doug. “We’re speaking to people who are dealing with stuff that we can’t even begin to imagine, still getting through their day, still getting themselves through high school and college, still bringing their A-game. That’s why I show up…The champion in this conversation isn’t me; it’s Ben!”