Within the FIRST community all mentors are good, many mentors are great, but very few can be called exceptional, ethical, influential and enthusiastic all in the same sentence. To hear these words associated with Team 1114’s Derek Bessette would barely turn a head in the presence of anyone who knows him, because all of us, students and mentors alike, think of him as just that.
Derek was one of the founding mentors of Team 1114 in 2002, and has been immersed in the FIRST community ever since. He currently holds the position of lead General Motors mentor, and was integral in the founding of Teams 1503 and 1680 through the NiagaraFIRST collaboration. Derek is also our FRC driveteam coach. He is the coach that praises his students no matter what the outcome while keeping a calm demeanor and his ability to think quickly. Derek’s uncanny ability to bring his team together to the point that a mental link almost exists, makes it possible for our team to do tasks that for others would seem unachievable. Derek also takes time to volunteer at both FVC and FLL events using the opportunity to show and spread his ever growing passion for FIRST. Woodie Flowers Finalist Award Winner Karthik Kanagasabapathy says “Derek’s passion is only matched by his desire to positively influence his students, whether through his design genius or helpful advice.” If his passion isn’t enough to win over his students, Derek has the personality and confidence to fall back upon. Every day Derek comes into the shop with a grin on his face, crooning along to whatever song happens to be blasting over the speakers and dancing as if the world couldn’t be any better. He brings smiles to the faces of everyone who happens to be in the same room as him, and his infectious enthusiasm is always shared with the people that surround him. Derek brings the best out of every student in his midst and will never allow the shop to become a boring place to work.
At times it seems as if Derek’s personal motto could be “No Simbot left behind”. Many people who have had the pleasure of working with Derek say that, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have to say, he will always listen and value your opinion as if you were his equal. His actions show this more than anything as he finds roles for everyone, giving them tasks he knows they will enjoy, while at the same time teaching them something new and subtly stretching their comfort zones. His accessibility and clear explanations through whatever analogies seem to pop into his head in a flash of brilliance, never cease to amaze. Using whatever medium necessary, Derek provides the students with a complete understanding, no matter how complex the subject may be. Each explanation he gives shows more and more how much he loves engineering and the true importance of the engineering education he received. This makes it no shocking discovery that many of the students Derek has mentored over the years look up to him, and have made the decision to become engineers themselves. He has also inspired many to carry themselves with the same self-assurance and have the same enthusiasm and passion towards FIRST as he displays.
Derek is the true driving force behind 1114’s success and the reason 1114 continues to exist today. There is no end to his brilliance, enthusiasm and his ability to embed fun and excitement into the FIRST experience. We owe Derek more than words can describe for the amount of time he has put into our team and the enthusiasm he brings to it.