No one knew at the time, but the future of the FIRST Team 2102 (Team Paradox) programming group changed for the better in early September 2013 when Dr. John Gaby joined as the lead programming mentor. John came to Team Paradox with more than 6 years of experience with FIRST, having served as the programming and robot mentor for 2 FLL teams previously.
Though trained as a solid-state physicist, John adapted his skills to programming and later as an entrepreneur. Team Paradox is very fortunate that he has chosen to share his skills with us. John worked with existing students to develop a curriculum where they work together to teach programming basics to incoming students, advanced programming skills to those who have more experience, and also work one-on-one with individual students to give them the opportunity to apply their skills to the robots we have on hand from previous competitions. His commitment and energy have been instrumental in growing the programming team from 1 person to 10, and the program shows great promise of expanding with students from the local middle school already reaching out to work with him in the coming year.
The level of dedication to FIRST, to Team Paradox, and to education and technical excellence that John has shown are unparalleled. The question “How long will you stay?” is no longer asked of him, because everyone already knows the answer will be “As long as there are students here.” This does not end with campus lines. When he is off campus, he continues to strategize and create projects to challenge, engage and educate the students. He always expects the best from us and will push us to succeed.
There is an art to balancing mentoring students with doing everything for them. Biting one’s tongue until just the right moment, offering advice but leaving room for new ideas, expanding a student’s knowledge base without forcing a certain path. All these things John carefully balances. He has the patience in give us the time to work through problems on our own, offering guidance when needed, but letting us learn from our mistakes. When the mistakes happen, he is there to try to help us to solve the puzzle and correct the problem.
Even though he is devoted to the success of programing, John assists other parts of the team and lends a hand or advice whenever needed. Hand-in-hand with this, he is also able to step back when he needs to talk through a problem with the students to help us come up with the best solution.
Because of his vast experience with FLL, John is heavily involved in running the FLL Qualifying Tournament that is hosted by Team Paradox, where he was the head referee. He helped to train student referees, and has stepped in as a referee at other local qualifying tournaments.
John’s undying commitment to our team and all things FIRST has allowed our team to expand and spread throughout the community which makes him an excellent selection for the Woodie Flowers Award.