The Woodie Flowers Award recognizes individuals who have mastered the art of communication in the fields of engineering and design. There are very few people who exemplify all the qualities necessary to succeed at this ambitious goal. Wayne Cokeley, coach to Team 25 and mentor to a myriad of other teams, including our own, manages to embody each trait with remarkable ease. His intense enthusiasm pervades the FIRST community, influencing a multitude of students to become active in pursuing Engineering.
Mr. Cokeley was one of the key factors in launching many teams, including our very own team 1089 in our rookie year, 2003. He capitalized on the opportunity to allow more students to participate in FIRST when he saw that there was ample interest in our school to begin a team. During our first year, he helped Team Mercury immensely by bringing volunteers from his own team to teach and assist us, as well as helping out himself. Cokeley offered his knowledge to the inexperienced students by lecturing on things such as the EDUbot kit and using it to explain concepts including lever arms, center of gravity, and mounting sprockets to wheels. Furthermore, he demonstrated how to properly use tools and even explained how FIRST works in general, particularly the concept of gracious professionalism. He also offered helpful suggestions for building a robot with difficult limitations on time, resources, budget, and design. In addition, Cokeley was essential in attaining our sponsorship from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. In the words of our advisor, Chris Gregory, “If every team had a Wayne Cokeley to help get them started, they’d be able to fully comprehend what FIRST can offer their students and communities”.
Wayne Cokeley has offered our team an immeasurable amount of assistance throughout the years. The most important asset that outweighs all else that he has given us is his encouragement. He has always contended that students should do more work than mentors, and unceasingly promotes student creativity and design. With his supportive speeches and even joyful tears upon seeing the growth of our team, the students have gained confidence and motivation to learn even more and work even harder. This attitude has been infused into the FIRST community through Mr. Cokeley’s avid participation in programs such as the Chief Delphi forums, the RINOS (Rookies In Need of Support) program, which he supervises, and the scrimmages and off-season event Brunswick Eruption hosted by Raider Robotix (25), just to name a few. Through these avenues as well as his own attempts to uphold an unofficial communication network within FIRST, Cokeley constantly offers his support and wise advice to anyone who might desire it.
The goal of FIRST is not for every team out there to have an unstoppable robot built to perfection; instead, the ideal is for every team’s students is to put their ideas and hearts into building both a machine and a cohesive team. In the words of Wayne Cokeley himself, “It doesn’t matter how many trophies you win or whether your machine is made of gold. It does matter that the kids develop a sense of belonging to a team they can be proud of and that they grow. Everybody has something they can contribute to a team and, if they show the initiative, they should be allowed to express it.” This is the standard that he abides by in leading his own team and assisting others. Mr. Cokeley’s leadership is inspirational to students throughout FIRST. It is best encompassed by what William Arthur Wood once said, “Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.”