Woodie Flowers Finalist Award Submission for 2008

Ian Mackenzie’s passion for FIRST has touched thousands of people’s lives. His love and enthusiasm for the discipline of engineering is unparalleled, and through his mentorship of Team 1114, that love and enthusiasm has spread rampantly.

Ian has been involved with FIRST for eleven years. He was integral in the founding of the first regional event in Canada, traveling across the nation to recruit teams, and has remained involved with FIRST Robotics Canada since. He is currently the Chairperson of the Waterloo Regional Planning Committee, as well as serving in many capacities for FLL and FTC events. In addition to all that he does for the FIRST community, Ian has been an active mentor for seven years, the past five with Team 1114.

When Ian joined Team 1114, with him came a desire to be the best that we could be. He believes that each student is capable of doing anything they want to do, and he will work with them until they believe that too. Whether the topic is mathematics, engineering, machining, or academics, he has the ability to make complex concepts easy to comprehend, with a litany of examples at hand to ensure our understanding. This past summer, Ian was working with the team on the design of a differential swerve which uses the same pair of motors for steering as well as for drive. When he first showed us this concept jaws dropped. But within a mere hour, we not only fully understood the concept, but were now able to explain it to others. Ian’s true feat was not the brilliant design, but making these advanced concepts so clear, something that was unfathomable to us at first.

Ian has a true passion for teaching, and enriching the lives of others. He gets so excited when there is a new idea to explain, that it is hard to deny him the obvious pleasure of giving an explanation. It is even harder not to let his enthusiasm rub off along with the new understanding of the concepts. Ian views engineering as more than a technical discipline – he views it as an art form, with end results that are not only effective, but elegant as well. This view has encouraged many students to think of engineers in a new light – as sculptors of something elegant and effective, striving to reach the pinnacle of both areas, as opposed to the nuts and bolts stereotype.

Ian’s mentoring does not end with Team 1114. His love for all things FIRST has inspired him to reach out to other FIRST teams and pre-rookie schools, to share with them his abundance of knowledge. He has created five technical seminars that he gives regularly across the province, with several of them being selected for inclusion at the Championship FIRST Robotics Conference in Atlanta.

As Karthik Kanagasabapathy, fellow 1114 mentor and 2005 Waterloo Regional WFA Winner said, “It is because of Ian that our students see engineering as something more than calculations; it is now a pastime, to be enjoyed for its nature.” Ian has instilled a love and respect for engineering in every one of us students, through his careful explanations, infinite patience and genuine enthusiasm. He continues to seek out new ways that he can instill this in others, especially through his volunteering for FIRST. While the mission of FIRST is to “create a world where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes”, on Team 1114 we dream of becoming the next Ian Mackenzie.