Some people contribute more, genuinely care, reach for higher goals, and motivate others to join them. Bob Blersch, lead teacher for the CooneyTech Robotics team, is that type of person. In 1998, when he learned of FIRST Robotics, Mr. Blersch immediately wanted to be involved in this program. He was the driving force for obtaining school support, recruiting other teachers and engineering mentors, finding funding for a team and he immediately made clear his most important goal: inspiring students. “Bob Blersch is FIRST Robotics at OHS,” says teacher Mark Jappinen. The first year the team dealt with a robot 70 pounds over weight, a five-gallon pail of tools and no cart to move the robot at competitions. This only encouraged him to work harder.

Mr. Blersch has tirelessly communicated the FIRST message in creative ways to anyone that will listen. In school he has used bulletin boards, display cases, team newsletters, the school newspaper, websites, student assemblies, parent teacher conferences and his classroom to communicate the FIRST message. With his guidance and encouragement, the team has helped start and mentor two new teams: Hartford (1091) and Watertown (1753). After trying unsuccessfully to get grade school teachers to start an FFL team he and students from our team started one, team 1855. He encouraged our team to join VEX so our under classmen could be introduced to the problem solving challenges of engineering.

Mr. Blersch ensures that FIRST is promoted in our community. He spreads the FIRST message by encouraging students to use websites, newspapers, parades and visits to schools and businesses. Over the years he has gone with students to numerous businesses and schools demonstrating robots and discussing the benefits of FIRST. He is as enthusiastic today as he was in 1998.

Bob Blersch promotes FIRST and engineering education by offering exceptional learning opportunities in our school. With great effort and time commitment from Mr. Blersch our school now offers the Project Lead The Way curriculum. These classes teach national standards in math, science and technology. This required additional education and training over his summer break. The new engineering and computer classes compliment FIRST Robotics greatly. He worked to get college credit for high school classes. He motivates students to raise their standards and work harder. Students taking Project Lead The Way classes are encouraged to join the CooneyTech FIRST Robotics Team.

Mr. Blersch inspires students during the build by personal example, with encouragement and refusing to lower his expectations. He expects students to run the team and organize the building season. Mentors guide but the students take charge. He understands that cooperation, generosity, patience, discipline, dedication, and honesty are as important as learning math, science and computer skills. He has fun slogans like “Safety FIRST, Stupid Hurts” to remind students to be careful. Mr. Blersch is proud that one of his students and FIRST members is now working for NASA; another is engineering for Porsche. His best moments are when former students visit, which happens often.

It is difficult to sacrifice family time year after year. Bob Blersch has chaperoned at every event, every year. He devotes endless hours to the CooneyTech Robotics Team. Luckily his family understands the difference he makes in students’ lives. Mr. Blersch has received no outside recognition for his efforts student and parent appreciation is enough for him. He measures success by his students’ achievements. For eight years our repeated success is a result of his steadfast contribution with genuine concern for students and their futures. Our team is very proud to nominate Bob Blersch, an exceptional educator, for the 2006 Woodie Flowers Award.