In the fall, John creates an electronics club for anyone interested in learning controls and programming. He has taught evening engineering classes and brought all the materials necessary for everyone on the team to make a circuit with a battery and LED. In November, he carted last year’s robot to school to explain its functions to new team members. He is able to communicate on every level of understanding by putting a concept in simple terms or explaining it in acute detail. His flexibility is evident in his mentorship of both FIRST Lego League and FIRST.

The Bomb Squad would not exist this year without John Novak. With the loss of corporate sponsorship, the program was dead. However, John has taken a colossal professional risk to be one of a few engineers still able to mentor. He made it his goal this year to prove that students are capable of taking on such challenges and creating a working robot without corporate help.

He has always been a favorite engineer for job shadowing and has always been willing to rearrange his work schedule. He has inspired so many students, particularly in the area of controls and programming, to study engineering after high school. He is also an advocate of engineering classes in the high school which will be introduced in the 2005-2006 school year.

His brilliance is unmatched. He is the brain power behind many successful Bomb Squad robots, and the intricate ideas in design and programming that he has passed on to students are invaluable. He searches all year for new ideas or engineering devices that could be incorporated into Bomb Squad robots and challenges the team to use these new ideas. For example, he introduced the team to ultrasonic sensors a few years ago and explained their function and the benefits of using them.

All of John’s brilliant ideas and teaching efforts combined do not compare to the value of his character. He is the model of a gracious professional. Never in the limelight, he takes no credit for all he has done. He constantly says “this is a team,” and is willing to work towards whatever goals the team set, even though he knows more about engineering and robotics than all the students combined. Instead of telling students something won’t work, he lets them discover it themselves. His determination never falters. If it was possible for John to give up, this would be the year, but he is more committed than ever. His enthusiasm inspires the team and emphasizes that FIRST isn’t about winning. He brings stability and confidence to the team, because John can fix anything!

The greatest testimony of John’s success in teaching is the ability of students to independently use the knowledge he has given them. For example, students he has mentored can independently program, solder, build and maintain the robot, and confidently explain its functions to any audience.

John Novak’s presence on the Bomb Squad has changed my life. To see someone have so much passion about engineering and working with students has inspired me to pursue a degree in engineering in hopes of becoming a professor. Our students have learned more about gracious professionalism from John than from any other person or team. Because of the way he has touched so many lives, John Novak truly deserves this award.