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Dr. Woodie Flowers

FIRST National Advisor 

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Dr. Woodie Flowers is the Papalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Distinguished Partner at Olin College. Woodie was honored to be the initial recipient of the Woodie Flowers Award, and is humbled to have an award named in his honor.  Woodie is the co-founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), along with Dean Kamen, and has served as a National Advisor to FIRST since the inception of the FRC.

Woodie leads the WFA judging committee, and is advised by Dr. Murphy in this effort.  He is often seen at the center of a crowd of students at many FIRST events.  While there was a time when Woodie was the emcee at all FRC events, starting each match with his stylish “3-2-1, Go!”, he now often travels to 2 events during each Regional weekend in March to visit as many teams as he can.  Dr. Murphy often provides thought-provoking and entertaining speeches at these events, and is very welcome and open to discussions regarding the future of education, technology, and competition robotics.  For 20 years, Woodie was instrumental in developing each game for the FIRST Robotics Competition, until stepping off of the Game Design Committee in 2011.

Many people consider Woodie Flowers to be the father of competition robotics.  Dr. Flowers helped create MIT’s renowned course “Introduction to Design”, which inspired many current robotics competition and education programs.

Also, Woodie is famously known for coining the term “Gracious Professionalism”.  GP is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work,
emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life.

He also received national recognition in his role as host for the PBS television series Scientific American Frontiers from 1990 to 1993 and received a New England EMMY Award for a special PBS program on design. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He recently received The Joel and Ruth Spria Outstanding Design Educator Award from ASME, a Public Service Medal from NASA, and a Doctor Honoris Causa from Andreas Bello University in Chile. He is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT for extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education. He was also the Inaugural Recipient of the Woodie Flowers Award by FIRST. Currently, Dr. Flowers is a director of three companies. He and his wife Margaret live in Weston, Massachusetts.

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