At one meeting last year, Al was explaining to students how a speed controller works. Originally, there were about five kids gathered around the whiteboard, but by the time ten minutes had passed, there were more than twenty students circled to watch Al teach. By the time he was done, everyone listening understood what Al was teaching. Regardless of what Al is teaching, he keeps kids focused and interested in the lesson. His influence, however, extends far beyond technical applications, as he teaches gracious professionalism and life lessons.
Al keeps students engrossed in the tasks at hand, and makes what we do on the team interesting. He always finds a way to keep each student engaged and intrigued by learning and working. Kevin Kolodziej says, “Al interacts with the kids in a way that I thought only teachers are capable of. He is encouraging of the students, yet lets them know he expects work to be done. He is never afraid to tell students how proud he is of them for the work they accomplish, and I have never heard him say a negative word to any of the kids.” Al is able to generate curiosity in the students and keep them absorbed in what they are doing.
Al does not simply focus on teaching lessons about science and technology, he also focuses on teaching life lessons. He helps instill a sense of Gracious Professionalism in the students, which is even more important than lessons about science and technology. At competitions, Al encourages WildStang students to help others. Although there is a case like this almost every year, one specific example was in 2004, when team 1365’s robot was destroyed during shipping. When he saw this, Al encouraged a group of students from our team to help 1365 put their robot back together. In Al’s own words, “My accomplishments are measured by the number of students that find happiness in FIRST and a sense that they are really capable of doing something important and helping others.” Al also helps to bring this philosophy to others in the FIRST program. He has volunteered with FIRST as an inspector for many years, and has been the Lead Inspector at multiple regionals and Championships. He has also helped other teams as a mentor, including FLL Teams. Al takes an interest in the students' lives. He and his wife have attended Eagle Scout Ceremonies, Band Concerts, and other such events, developing a more personal relationship with the students.
Additionally, Al has demonstrated his leadership to other teams, even if he is not their mentor. He especially focuses on helping rookie teams. Al has helped teams such as the Deerfield Warbots to become established. According to Herb Regan of the Warbots during their rookie year, “We snuck out to 111's Motorola practice facility numerous times that year, and each time were lucky enough to find Al. He held countless electrical workshops training my students, helping them to understand the complexities and intricacies involved.” By encouraging rookie teams to remain in FIRST, Al has insured that he helps to spread the spirit of FIRST.
While Al is an incredible mentor and teacher, his influence on students has extended beyond the mere technical aspects of FIRST. He exemplifies not only a good engineer, but also a good teacher and a good person. Through those qualities, Al has led students to careers in engineering, encouraged students to work hard and succeed, and inspired students to lend a helping hand in the FIRST community. We wish that Al will be granted this honor he deserves.