The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”-Chuck Palahniuk. This was the opening line of the essay that ultimately would go on to allow Eric Stokely (Stokely to most people) to be the Woodie Flowers Award winner in 2016 In St Louis, and it does neatly sum up what he has done through robotics.
A physicist who started teaching in 1998 was the founding mentor of team 258 , the Sea Dawgs, in San Jose California. Once he walked into the first Regional he had seen at NASA Ames in Hanger 1 he knew this was a force that could change a lot of students lives.
Moving to Washington State in 2002 he partnered up with team 360 , the Revolution, and then started teaching at the teams school, Bellarmine , where he built the small 8 person club into a 35 plus student run team with dedicated year round build spaces and school support that first year in Pacific Northwest after driving to San Jose to pick up the kits for the 7 teams in Washington it was suggested that it was time to organize. And what became FIRST Washington was formed, and Stokely was part of that. He became the affiliate partner for FTC in Washington, often spending vacation time to attend meetings in New Hampshire with other Affiliate partners from around the country.
When a parent with connections in Turkey suggested that an FRC team could be started there, FRC360 sent a delegation of students and mentors over the summer to work with a local school admin and students to get them ready. Team 2905 was born from that. Later when a 360 Alumni resettled in Turkey started an off season event he called on Stokely as well as a group of other 360 alumni to come over and help with the organization of it all. Those early off season events allowed the Turkish regional to become a reality. Currently there is a Turkish Regional that is a direct result of those efforts. Believing it was time to spread a bit, Stokely left 360’s parent school, Bellarmine Prep, and taught for a year at Science and Math Institute where he was able to work with FRC 2557, a team that 360 mentored initially when they were getting started. From there he worked at the non profit he helped found, FIRST Washington for two years, while returning to help mentor FRC360.
After that he found himself teaching in Shelton School District where he started working with Aldernating Current, FRC 5295 which is where he is currently. A normal robotic season finds Stokely as a Robot inspector, Field supervisor, Judge advisor, pit setup, or what ever is needed, including driving the box truck with equipment.
While FRC remains his passion, his desire to bring as many students as possible into the FIRST program he volunteers equally across FLL , FTC and FRC events. He won state volunteer of the year for FRC in 2012 in recognition of his support.
Many of Stokely's past students from Robotics remain in touch and often have impromptu reunions when enough of them are back in town. Stokely believes this shows that it really isn’t about him, but he fact that he has had some excellent people to work with over the years.
He sums up robotics with a quote from Koko Ed, “Hopes and Dreams”.