Liz Calef was awarded the Woodie Flowers Award at the 1997 FIRST Championships in Orlando, Florida. Liz is the lead teacher on FRC team 88 (TJ2) from Bridgewater Raynam Regional High School.
Liz is a physics teacher and the head coach of team 88. She has formed team 88 into a perennially strong team, leading them with her positive and excited attitude. She is active in her school as the National Honor Society leader at Bridgewater Raynam.
Here are some questions posed to Liz by the FIRST community, and posted on http://www.chiefdelphi.com. This interview took place a few years ago, in 2005.
What was it like to win the WFA?:
I didn’t know that my team had submitted a nomination. I try to honor the spirit of the WFA…I tell my students the deadline and they take it from there. Our awesome sponsor surprised us by bringing us to the Nationals in 1997. We were told that they were bringing us to Orlando at the NJ regional 2 weeks before the Nationals. The whole trip to the Nationals and to Disney was magical!! It was my first fieldtrip on a plane!! At the National’s award ceremony my team chose to sit in the very back row of the largest set of bleachers I had ever seen. I was sitting there , a beautiful clear April night at the end of a competition that had been more than my wildest dreams. Dr. Murphy was on the stage starting the presentation of the WFA. My team realized that they were reading from our entry and that was it. I was buried by screaming teenagers and coaches. I had to walk all the way down the bleachers and up on to the stage. My knees were actually knocking. I didn’t know they could do that! What an unbelievable honor and surprise! My team had no curfew that night. We swam outside in the hotel pool all night and then left for the airport at 4:30am for an early flight. I will never forget that night or the reaction of our team!
Favorite FIRST Memory:
We were trying to lift a large arm up the year of Torroid Terror. We were trying to fit motors, design gear assemblies, put any power we could towards lifting this arm. A student standing quietly behind me said, “why don’t we pivot it like a seasaw?”. He realized that if we slid part of the arm forward, its own weight would pivot it up into place!!! No motors, gears, or power required!!! The room full of mentors and engineers paused and said hmmmm……that’s done….time for lunch!
FIRST is a year round activity for many of us. I am very proud of the team and the legacy we have established. This legacy has been built by 8 teaching coaches and Mr. Terry Young, my engineering partner, all who have been with the team for 9 years! Our team is widely recognized for its spirit, enthusiasm, and willingness to help others. We have garnered many varied FIRST awards , and we treasure every one, but our accomplishment is the greeting we get when we show up to tournaments and our FIRST friends welcome us and do their best to “take us on!”
What are you up to these days?:
This is my 16th year teaching Physics. My sons have both graduated college. My youngest son, Tom, is a Computer Engineer and now a coach of our team. I also advise the National Honor Society at our school. My “thing” now is to open up opportunities for the unbelievably talented students that I get to work with. FIRST does that, and that’s what I am up to for now.
Advice to FIRST-ers:
Enjoy FIRST and grab all the experiences you can. Talk to the people standing next to you….there are many amazing people involved in FIRST and the conversations you can have with them are memorable.
What does mentoring mean to you?:
I love it! I love to see a student feel great about themselves. FIRST kids are proud of themselves, and if I can help that to happen….then let’s go!
Other stuff you’d like to include:
I know my quote has sports connotations, but I love sports, I love competition, and FIRST has shown me how cheap talk is! Action is everything. Make it happen!
Congratulations to Liz Calef on her achievements – and a big ‘thank you’ from the FIRST community for all of your hard work!