Lucien Junkin was awarded the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award in 2005 at The Lone Star Regional in Houston and received the Woodie Flowers Award in 2020. He has been the head coach for The Robonauts, Team 118, for over two decades. Lucien has been a team member of The NASA Robotics Alliance Project (RAP) since 1998; RAP provides opportunities to students throughout America to participate in robotics programs such as FIRST Robotics, VEX Robotics, and Botball. Lucien is also a robotics engineer at NASA and is currently the chief engineer of the human rovers for the Moon & Mars – the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) and Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV). The LTV will support two astronauts in spacesuits for exploration near base and the SEV will support two astronauts for up to two weeks in a pressurized cabin while being capable of travelling hundreds of kilometers from base. Lucien began his career at NASA in 1990 when he joined the newly formed robotics division at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Lucien has been involved in various projects including the International Space Station Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM), the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), Calibrated Synthetic Viewing (CSV), the Autonomous Extravehicular Activity Robotic Camera (AERCam), Robonaut, Spidernaut, Centaur, the Modular Robotics Vehicle (MRV), and the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).
Lucien grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, only an hour "down the road" on US Highway 84 from where Woodie grew up in Jena, Louisiana. Lucien attended Cathedral in Natchez and Mississippi State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. Lucien has received many awards including the 2003 FLL World Championships Volunteer of the Year Award, the Lockheed Martin Top Flight Award, the Citizen of The Year of the Clear Creek Independent School District, and the Government Invention of The Year team award for Robonaut 2.
The Robonauts shared Lucien’s journey in their 2020 Woodie Flowers Submission:
Lucien’s passion for robotics education is evident in everything he does. He strives to engage ALL students in engineering before stereotypes take hold. Lucien was the first Texas FLL Partner, helped to grow FLL in Texas, and earned the 2003 FLL World Championships Volunteer of the Year award. For all his work with K-12 robotics education, the Clear Creek school district awarded him the 2009 CCISD Citizen of the Year, recognizing many of the same characteristics as the Woodie Flowers honor. Lucien’s dedication to the growth of FRC earned him the Lone Star Regional Volunteer of the Year award in 2003. Lucien demonstrates his commitment to robotics education by mentoring all levels of robotics.
Each year, Lucien introduces a theme for the team to focus on, which then becomes a core value. One of the most notable is “Family>School>Robot”. Lucien knows we want to build robots 24/7, but stresses family and school must come first. He emphasizes other themes including Sportsmanship, Ownership, and especially Caring. As he learned from his football coach, Coach Beesley, “If you care for your players, everything else will take care of itself.” Lucien takes a personal interest in our lives. He is our greatest challenger & our greatest supporter. He pushes to make us stronger while encouraging us when we need it most.
Lucien created our team’s “3 Pillars of Competitiveness”: Robot, Strategy, You. He reminds us that having a good robot is only a piece of the puzzle; individuals must also execute their jobs for the team to be successful. With his unmatched enthusiasm, excellent communication, and contagious intensity, Lucien has transformed the culture of our team, always reiterating our team goals. During meetings, he rallies us all to speak our minds, debate productively & respectfully, and take ownership of our team. He encourages everyone to voice their opinions on all decisions affecting the team. This brings us out of our shells and makes us stronger, bolder communicators.
Lucien demonstrates countless ways of encouraging & cultivating engineers. He developed our EveryBot initiative, runs the summer Robotics Academy (giving FRC alumni an opportunity to work on NASA projects), and serves as an integral partner in NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project. As a result of Lucien’s FLL experience, he founded EARLY Robotics in 2002 to help young students be better prepared to build FLL robots. Over the past year, Lucien has consulted with VEX Robotics to develop 2 new elementary robotics programs, VEX 123 & VEX GO, engaging students in classroom STEM experiences from Pre-K to grade 4.
Lucien’s unique style of communication has ignited a passion for engineering within students, influencing them to pursue STEM careers. Through developing, inspiring, and empowering students, Lucien has shaped robotics well beyond our team for 24 years, with no sign of stopping.
Lucien shared his thoughts about Woodie and the Woodie Flowers Award.
I am humbled and honored to be the 2020 Woodie Flowers Award recipient and to be part of such a great & wonderful WFA family. Receiving the WFA is a testament to the great people that surround me, students and mentors alike. For my entire life, I have been blessed to have been mentored by great people, my mother & father being the greatest, resulting in the person that I am today – and the team that the Robonauts have become. My mentors have encouraged me to, "Embody the best of others and become the best person you can be." The centuries-old adage certainly applies, I have not only seen further by standing on the shoulders of giants but have also been lifted up by these giants, my mentors. Woodie has been and will continue to be one of my most influential mentors – Woodie is an inspiration when he was near and now from far – Woodie’s spirit will live on forever – God bless you, Woodie! I encourage everyone to explore the journey of Woodie – a great start is at MIT’s Infinite History Project interview with Woodie at https://youtu.be/BV53qvfM3Xw. Although COVID shed a dark shadow, receiving the WFA in 2020 was incredibly special to me because both of my children, Casey & Billy, were Robonauts team members and contributed significantly to building our robot, Mobius, named in the honor and the memory of Woodie!