2020 Woodie Flowers Finalist Awards Winners from California

The Woodie Flowers Award is special for the mentors, because it is the students’ choice.

This award celebrates outstanding communication in the art and science of engineering and design. It was created honor of the late Dr. Woodie Flowers and celebrates a mentor who, in the concisely communicated written words of students, demonstrates the leadership, ethical behavior, and communication skills exemplified by Woodie.

For each Regional event, one mentor was selected to receive the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award. Please join us in celebrating the 2020 Woodie Flowers Finalist award recipients, all from California!


This mentor has, in the words of the students, applied constant dedication and passion for STEM over the years. The result has been students whose knowledge and enthusiasm for robotics and engineering have grown in both depth and breadth. With this mentor’s guidance, students have gained more than skills and techniques – they have gained a thorough understanding of their larger role in the team and beyond.

Goodman "Dennis" Barnes

Aerospace Valley Regional, Team 2429

This mentor has been a steady source of expertise and stability for their team. Adding his experience allows students to understand mechanical solutions as well as explore options not yet thought of. Whether it is teaching a student the proper technique to weld or working to increase the size of the membership, his apparently tireless efforts are felt by all of the students.

Rory Buchenroth

Central Valley Regional, Team 2035

This individual has been an active part of FIRST in both the FLL and FRC programs throughout the past 12 years. This person’s journey consists of mentorship, volunteering at events, and most importantly inspiring students and creating an inclusive culture in the team’s program. The ability of this individual to promote the culture of FIRST as a service-oriented, diverse, and spirited program deserves great recognition. Instilling in students, the desire to celebrate team successes as the sum of each and every individual’s contributions is this person’s mantra.

Richard Sisk

Del Mar Regional, Team 6960

This mentor is focused on student engagement, student knowledge and student development using precise communication skills. One student stated “…he encouraged us to improve our communications as well. Whether that be by capturing more in presentations and documentation or enhancing technical communications by helping improve the design-build-programming cycle…”.

Additionally, another student believe’s he is “crucial in helping students gain a deeper understanding of engineering concepts. For instance, to help refine our knowledge of gear ratios, he developed his own modified version of JVN’s Gearbox Calculator. His precise, research-and-data-driven approach to finding solutions has drastically changed how designs, mechanical, electrical, and software, are developed.”

Mike Hashiro

Los Angeles Regional, Team 2637

This mentor has been motivating and encouraging students to be better on a daily basis for thirteen years. He enforces the team’s engineering method, “Think, Design, Build.”

But above all else, when the going gets tough and stressful, he offers the simplest and perhaps best advice of all, “just breathe”.

Jason Takamoto

Los Angeles North Regional, Team 207

This mentor not only manages his teams organization, he also creates seminars and learning sessions to enable new students to become versed in the skills needed to design and build robots. He encourages the members to collect data, document actions, maintain engineering notes, and be able to present the results competently. His passion for robotics goes beyond the team as he is involved in expanding FIRST teams and events around the area.

Robert Hyde

Monterey Bay Regional, Team 5104

The students on this team note that this mentor sees potential in all our team members even when they can’t. This mentor has created a team of leaders with values that team members retain after they move out into their careers. Through this mentor’s efforts, his students have learned how to problem-solve, and not just in Engineering.

Daniel Guerrero

Orange County Regional, Team 5810

This mentor’s insistence on students learning from hands-on trial and error has transformed this team into one which has provided generations of kids meaningful engineering experiences. It is the lessons we learn through failure and success that this mentor is clearly passionate about. It is the approach to communicating to students that has clearly worked for this team over the past 14 years and they are much better prepared for the future.

Gary Gin

Sacramento Regional, Team 2204

As the students wrote, “This mentor’s natural openness and enthusiasm is infectious, earning respect and trust from all team members. His bubbly and approachable personality is why students are comfortable coming to him with all their questions, knowing he will go above and beyond to explore new ideas and encourage out of the box thinking. He pushes us to arrive at solutions ourselves with thought-provoking questions, while making sure our ideas are valued. He puts his whole heart into involving everyone, creating a team culture based on improvement and excellence.”

This mentor, “hosts events, workshops, competitions and outreach events. He is the liaison between neighboring teams sharing resources with 20 other FRC teams. He is the unwavering champion of our team, and the representative of everything we stand for.”

Saikiran Ramanan

San Diego Regional, Team 3476

This mentor strives to provide everyone on this team with individual guidance and attention, a tough task for a team of over 100 students! With tough love, this mentor precisely calculates his expectations to push the team beyond their perceived personal limits. Becoming a math teacher after retirement from being an electrical engineer, he began his real “new career” mentoring this robotics team. Coining the team mantra “Building People, Building Robots” this mentor has the energy to move mountains, but he could probably convince the mountains to move themselves!

Charles Williams

San Francisco Regional, Team 2473

This mentor knows that it is important to prioritize health above all, take breaks, laugh, and love often. Throughout her life, she has modeled the virtues that Woodie Flowers strived to reward while she continues to strive for humanity, facing unparalleled challenges in a field that has traditionally been unfriendly to women.

Pauline Breeden

Arizona North Regional, Team 1138

This mentor has been instrumental in transitioning the team from a club to a class. By working with district and student representatives, he has made FIRST available to over 20,000 students spanning across two districts. As head robotics coordinator for the district, he oversaw the design and creation of a new robotics curriculum. Through teacher and student-led plans, the unique curriculum focuses on building the student’s curiosity and spurring a passion in engineering.

His curiosity pervades into the minds of his students, encouraging students to explore a new concept or to design and iterate to ensure their curiosity is met.

Rick Jung

Ventura Regional, Team 5199