Since Woburn Robotics’ inception into FIRST in 1998, Mark Breadner has continued to be an indispensable source of leadership and inspiration for our team and all those around him. Not only was he one of our team’s founding mentors, he was also the driving force behind FIRST’s introduction to Canada. With the belief that the FIRST competition could make a profound impact on students’ lives, he and a small group of Woburn students spent unbelievable amounts of time giving presentations and robot demonstrations to other schools and community groups. It is not an exaggeration to say that Mark Breadner single-handedly formed over 20 teams and garnered the support of many corporate companies that still sponsor FIRST teams and competitions to this day. Their hard work and persistent efforts were rewarded with the formation of the Canadian Regional in 2002, the first competition held outside of the United States and the precursor to FIRST’s increased international presence. Today, there are over 50 teams in the Greater Toronto Area alone and the FIRST community in Canada is still growing. Mark Breadner’s dedication to ensuring the international growth of FIRST has placed Canada prominently on the FIRST map, and has brought Dean Kamen’s dream of having a team in every high school a little closer to realization.
Mark Breadner’s impact on his students is striking – two former Woburn students have won regional Woodie Flowers Awards, three have won Volunteer of the Year Awards. Countless others have returned to mentor our team, gone on to start new teams, and volunteered their time to plan and run events. WFA winner Karthik Kanagasabapathy asserts, “Mark Breadner is by far the most effective leader I have ever met. He was such a role model to me that I worked twice as hard to ensure I would never disappoint him. I would not be where I am in life if it wasn’t for his guidance.”
After serving as the Regional Director for the Canadian Regional, Mr. Breadner returned to Woburn as our vice-principal. Throughout all this, he has continued to play a large role in establishing connections between our team and our local community, always encouraging us to promote FIRST with presentations to local elementary schools and corporate companies. There is not a single day that we hesitate to step into his FIRST memorabilia-covered office and discuss the progress of the robot or competition strategy with him. He is always on-hand to offer his students and fellow mentors sound advice, solid proof that despite his busy job as a vice-principal and a family-man, his passion for FIRST has never wavered. Instead, it has been strengthened into an infectious enthusiasm. Beyond motivating and inspiring students, he has also been able to convince all those around him that have never even been exposed to FIRST to become dedicated mentors and volunteers. His wife, Rhona, has become an integral part of organizing FLL and FRC teams and competitions. His three children are always seen eagerly helping out at competitions, and it is obvious that they have been inspired by their father’s unabandoned sense of spirit.
Mark Breadner is an easily recognizable face at competitions, known for his penchant for Shania Twain music and his seemingly endless wardrobe of FIRST clothing, but even more so for the dedication and guidance he has shown in advancing FIRST. After all that he has done to inspire our team and the FIRST community, there is no doubt in our minds that no one is more deserving of the Woodie Flowers Award than Mark Breadner.