I have been blessed to be involved in FIRST for three years, and have increased my knowledge and experience beyond any reasonable expectation. There are many deserving mentors responsible for this–but one stands out among the rest. He is someone who has most shaped what I think of engineering; without him, the late nights and all too early mornings would be meaningless. In considering my team’s nomination for the Woodie Flowers Award, I have no doubt that Ansel Butterfield is the most deserving recipient.
FIRST is about inspiration, and I cannot think of Mr. Butterfield without that word jumping to my mind. A leader should lead by example; and, indeed, what greater inspiration can a mentor give than his complete dedication of time and skill to his team? As the hours wane and work continues, Mr. Butterfield finds the time to grace us with his experiences: memories from World War II, stories of how he helped man explore the depths of space during his career with NASA, and glimpses of engineering in days gone by. It is truly inspiring to hear what past generations accomplished without the luxuries of modern technology; and his stories manage to open our minds about engineering, causing us to think in new and innovative ways.
As much as his stories are interesting, the team would be lost without his hands-on guidance and applied experience. During the build season, it is inevitable that there is too much to remember, and even more to do–all in too short a time. Yet Mr. Butterfield manages to keep everything organized and knows exactly what needs to be done next. He is quick to not only assign a task to a student who is without work, but also to explain how to do it and its importance; he helps to truly make it the students’ robot. He always comes in with the start of some prototyped design, only to allow the students to take it and make it their own. For example, for the 2002 game, I rebuilt and changed his original design for a goal latch so many times that, though it was my first year and I did not know much, I felt proud of what I had done and became emboldened to do more. This would not have been possible without Mr. Butterfield’s continued guidance and insight; he taught me not only how to use the tools, but how to design something.
Mr. Butterfield’s dedication to FIRST is amazing and inspiring. He helped create our team 7 years ago, and without his continued assistance there would be no team today. Tirelessly and selflessly he continues to give demonstrations and talks about FIRST whenever the opportunity arises. And when he is not praising the virtues of FIRST, he is in the construction room imparting some of his knowledge to eager students. When asked, he is quick to explain the tangled web of “sines” and “cosines,” of “mus” and “omegas”-- in understandable terms. His application of physics makes the abstract concepts taught in the classroom more concrete and more valuable. Without the ungodly hours and the sweat and the blood that Mr. Butterfield continues to pour into the team; without his expertise at the competitions, directing the frantic and wearied mass to ready and repair the robot, FIRST would not be the program I love so dearly. If recognition of the importance of science, and inspiration for the power of engineering are terms truly held paramount in FIRST, then I feel confident that Mr. Butterfield best exemplifies everything the organization promotes.