• Mentor Spotlight

    On this final day of National Mentoring Month, we are highlighting 5 mentors who were honored as Woodie Flowers Finalist at the California FRC Regionals in 2012.   A few years after helping Dean Kamen create FIRST, Dr. William Murphy founded the Woodie Flowers Award with the intent to celebrate effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. This prestigious award recognizes mentors who lead, inspire, and empower using excellent communication skills.

    Each year, students submit an essay nominating one mentor from their team to be considered for this award. The students describe how this mentor has given them the best understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and satisfaction involved in the discipline of engineering and design.

    Specific judging criteria are based on the team’s description of how the mentor inspired each member of the team in some or all of the following ways:

    • Level of student participation
    • Creativity of effort
    • Clear explanation of mathematical, scientific, and engineering concepts
    • Demonstration of enthusiasm for science and engineering
    • Encouragement to work on projects as a team effort
    • Inspiration to use problem-solving skills
    • Inspiration to become an effective communicator
    • Motivation through communication



    At the 2012 California Regionals there was a large number of impressive nominations.  Your essays described many talented, dedicated mentors.  They spoke of sacrifice, creativity, and inspiration.  They explained how much you value their time and efforts and you realize how lucky you are to be associated with mentors such as these.

    You made the judges read and reread.  As one judge pointed out “There are powerful mentoring forces at work, here, in California”

    So many Mentors deserve recognition for their amazing contributions to FIRST and your teams, but these 5 rose to the top.

    Los Angeles Regional : Mr. Jose Ignacio Fernandez of “Chilean Heart” ,Team 2576
    wfca2Judges’ Description: “The winner was selected because of the unusual stamina and dedication the team described.  This mentor literally helped the team survive a national disaster. After creating the first FIRST team in his country seven years ago, and helping an FLL team from a children’s cancer treatment hospital make it from very tough circumstances to winning a prize at the FIRST Championship in Atlanta, he then faced a much bigger challenge.

    This mentor lost his father in a devastating earthquake that temporarily demoralized the whole country and almost ended FIRST in Chile.  He did not give up and convinced the team that working hard and exhibiting Gracious Professionalism was even more important in the wake of tragedy. Through his leadership, the team is strong and looking forward.  They are proud to be competing here in Los Angeles. As their website says, “When your heart is FIRST, amazing things happen.”
    Link to: Students’ Essay Submission

    Silicon Valley Regional: Mr. Jim Mori of Quixilver, Team 604
    wffaSVbest2Judges’ Description: “The mentor selected has a long impressive record.  He has deep roots that start with his daughter and FLL.  He launched an FLL program for local schools.  When his daughter grew into FRC, he followed.  He restarted an FRC team.  He mentors other FRC teams and mentors other mentors.  He has made personal contributions to FIRST that includes access to his machine shop.  He serves on the Planning Committee for this event. He has rules: Work together as a team, explore your ideas, and ask questions.”
    Link to: Students’ Essay Submission

     San Diego Regional: Mr. Bill Berggren of The Holy Cows, Team 1538
    _d7d4558Judges’ Description: “One team’s description of their mentor’s deeds and results stood out above the rest.  Students described a person who has had a major positive influence on their lives through FIRST. Of course this person goes above and beyond the call of duty in helping the team. Of course this person provides a balanced approach which both guides and challenges the students. This person has also extended the educational opportunities for all students in the San Diego area.  His influence is deep and wide.”
    Link to: Students’ Essay Submission

    Central Valley Regional: Mr. Ranjit Chahal of MadTown Robotics, Team 1323
    wffaCV2Judges’ Description: “This specific mentor rose above the rest, always guiding their team towards balance, success in FIRST, “The Big Picture” and a clear vision of what students can be. This mentor teaches through example, to never stop seeking new challenges. He pushes the team to keep growing their projects, community outreach, and team involvement. He leads his team in developing ideas and tackling challenging projects during the summer and fall, reaching out to other FIRST teams. His most notable impact on his team is the implementation of “Real World” engineering. He inspires his team to become effective communicators by allowing them to present their ideas to engineers from various companies where they have to defend their ideas as they are critiqued.

    This mentor says, “Every day I meet kids that believe Science & Engineering is hard, along with math. They believe you have to be a super nerd to join robotics. I disagree, anyone can do this. I know people say its not about building a robot, it honestly isn’t. But the skills you get out of building a competitive robot stay with you for life. I want each and every student to succeed in life.”

    Sacramento Regional: Dr. Eric Nelson of Harker Robotics, Team 1072
    wfsac2Judges’ Description: “One essay speaks to the growth of an engineering facility, and how ready access to tools empowers students to explore engineering options and to think for themselves. The essay speaks to how these students learned to work together to recognize and correct problems, and that ideas should be analyzed objectively and discussed fully before they are accepted into a design. Providing access to tools, fostering respect for the design process, and communicating trust in student’s abilities, helped this team bootstrap their engineering program, and realize significant engineering achievements…including designing and building the tools used to design and build their robot. This mentor fosters the entrepreneurial and inventive spirit that fuels student ambitions.”

     REMINDER: Your 2013 Woodie Flowers Essays are due February 21, 2013