At the 2019 Central Illinois Regional, Ctrl-Z's mentor Bob Smith won the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award. Here's the essay that was used to nominate him!
Anyone who knows Bob Smith would agree in a heartbeat that he is the epitome of going above and beyond. Not only does Bob inspire every student and mentor on our FRC team, Ctrl-Z, he is responsible for the growth of FIRST in the Champaign-Urbana area and throughout Central Illinois. Bob has spent the last thirteen years organizing, volunteering, refereeing, and hosting numerous FLL Jr., FLL, FTC, and FRC competitions to provide opportunities for everyone.
Bob’s FIRST story began in 2006, when he and his daughter formed an FLL team at her elementary school. Five years later, Bob, and a couple others involved in the local FIRST scene, came together to organize and sponsor the local FLL Qualifier after the sponsor funding was pulled. Bob also helped start Illini Robotics, a non-profit that acts as an umbrella organization for FIRST activities in the area.
In 2013, Bob took a detour from his successful career as an engineer to become the “Illinois 4-H LEGO guy,” educating the staff of the youth development organization that FIRST and 4-H have complimentary missions. For the next three years, he continued his work to inspire countless students through FIRST in the southern half of Illinois by starting FLL teams and running workshops. In 2017, Bob became more involved with FTC when he began Ctrl-Y, an FTC team spun off of Ctrl-Z, and began volunteering and refereeing at local FTC events. A few years ago, he even started an initiative in the Champaign public elementary schools to encourage more teachers and administrators to become involved with FLL, connecting parents and teachers to help them create ten new teams this year.
Each year, Bob organizes the Champaign-Urbana Illini FLL Qualifier and the Tesla State Championship Tournament, encouraging and involving Ctrl-Z students in the planning and execution of the events. While helping Bob, Ctrl-Z team captain, Tori, says “he has shown me in order to create the most for students you need to put in effort and heart.” We are excited and fortunate Bob cares so deeply about the success of FIRST in our area, actively coaching FLL teams, FTC teams (Ctrl-Y & Ctrl-X), and FRC (Ctrl-Z). It seems that every time we turn around, Bob is creating a new team or inspiring another group of local children to become interested in STEM.
Bob shows his dedication to the success of Ctrl-Z by teaching students how to operate our shop’s CNC router and “going above and beyond what we expect a mentor to be responsible for” says Ctrl-Z technical captain, Solomia. Even when his career pulls him away from our workshop, Bob is always on Slack ready to guide our students to successful engineering solutions for whatever problem we may present him with. Bob’s trademark patience and positive approach set him apart as an amazing teacher and a better friend to everyone on Ctrl-Z. Through his impact in the community, Bob is setting the best possible example, inspiring every student and mentor on Ctrl-Z to meet their future goals.