This year celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Orlando Regionals and we had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Woodie Flowers, who was in attendance to mark the occasion. Woodie, an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a distinguished résumé with an impressive list of honors and achievements. In our circles, however, he is best known as being the co-founder of FIRST Robotics Competition, along with Dean Kamen in 1992. It was Woodie who coined the phrase and environment of Gracious Professionalism, which is truly a cornerstone value in this amazing organization.
It was great to get his perspective on how FIRST has evolved over the years and the direction for the future. We've come from simplistic beginnings of having the robots decipher colors to using vision technology with the use of cameras that take the robots capabilities to the next level. But it doesn't stop with how advanced the robots get. There's a lot more to it. There's a responsibility that comes with such rapidly advancing technology because although it's wonderful to have all of these new capabilities at our fingertips, there are always those out there who will use the progress for nefarious purposes. The fact that FIRST has already built in a culture of honesty, graciousness and truth seeking gives these students a tremendous edge for facing such obstacles in the future. The kids are also given the understanding that although they have the advantage of likely being very successful in their future careers, they also need to teach others along the way.
Make sure to watch this insightful interview with Woodie. He has a special way of understanding and appreciating the advancements in the world of technology and seeing beyond to how it can impact society as a whole. His favorite part of this journey with FIRST is the underlying philosophy of what they do.
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