Pat O'Cain, a mentor with the Kinetic Knights Robotics Team 781 of Kincardine, has won the Woodie Flowers award at the Greater Toronto East regional, held this weekend in Oshawa.
The award commemorates an exceptional mentor on a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team. The recipient should be able to lead, inspire, and educate students.
As a retired shift supervisor at a nuclear power station and a former professional trainer, O'Cain brings a high safety orientation and understanding of technology that he shares with the team, states the nomination. He has worked with the team on all aspects of build, putting the focus on helping people learn how to do it themselves - at times, teaching, and other times, coaching.
"More than anything, he dedicates countless hours to the team and is there pretty well all the hours of build season being at the build site from midday to late at night every day for six weeks. In addition, he is often up early taking care of the paperwork and ordering materials for the team."
“Besides the countless hours at the build site and behind the scenes that Pat has put in, it is his focus on helping each and every person grow that makes him the anchor for the team," says Kinetic Knights lead mentor Richard Yun. "You can see his pride when young rookies become leaders on the team, taking on roles as spokespeople, and when veterans teach the rookies who come behind them.”
Many team members appreciate the time he spends at the build site during the six weeks concentrated on designing and building the robot each year.
"The build site is his home away from home. Every day, once we got off from school, we would typically be greeted by Pat who was already at the build site prepared to help us. He would work on side projects in his own time in order to learn more about robotics so he would be able to better support us in learning how to do things. Having a mentor who is knowledgeable in a certain area makes learning things a whole lot easier. If there was something that no one knew how to do, Pat would research how to do it and would typically come back the next day with enough knowledge to help teach us about it. From electrical to mechanical to programming, Pat is our jack-of-all-trades build mentor."
“Pat is a quiet and modest person who does a lot for our team and is one of the hard working people who helped grow our team to what it is today," says Matt Pagnan, alumnus of the Kinetic Knights. "He is a knowledgeable and helpful mentor who will happily do anything for the team and I really appreciate all the hard work that he has done.”
“Pat wasn't the type of mentor who seemed to ease into the team, he jumped right in and hasn't stopped being one of the most important members in our build," says former build captain Bradley Reid. "He has helped every build member to become more organized, is an amazing teacher, especially for programming and electronics, but also for a lot of the physics and design work we do for the robot. If you want to know something, you can usually ask Pat. All of this is great, but the most valuable thing Pat gives students, even more than his vast engineering knowledge, is his time and patience. He is there all the time, and by there, I mean at the Lake Huron Learning Centre (build site) and in the pit.
"He's the one that you have to make sure he gets lunch at competition because even as the students rotate in and out of fixing the robot to eat, he will stay to help whichever student is still there. He recognizes when stress is wearing into students and works hard to make sure that it is minimized, both at competition and back during build season. If new students have been left doing something they don't know how to do, Pat will see that and go help them until they are proficient in whatever it was they were doing.
"Pat is always there to help. He is truly a gracious professional on our team, because he is gracious and professional all the time. He is a great role model of this for our members and he shows it when talking to other teams, and reinforces helping other teams all the time. When an announcement comes on in the pit, asking teams for a part, he finds someone who is not busy to run that part to the other team, or he does it himself.“
"Pat is someone who just gets us," says former programming lead Aaron Gordon. "He keeps things light, he knows when it's a good time to mess around and have fun, and he knows what works best when teaching/correcting people on the team. I seriously would have lost my mind working on code if someone hadn't been able to bring me down to earth like he
During the 2014 build season, O'Cain mentored Rookie Team 5036 - the Blue Robo Devils - from afar, states the nomination. When the teams reached the competition grounds, he was in their pit, teaching their students and mentors more about competitions and robots. More importantly, he inspired the Team 781 drive team and pit crew to take charge and help this amazing rookie team reach their full potential.
"Imagine the look of pride on his face when Team 5036 won the Rookie All Star Award at the Greater Toronto East regional. The look was priceless.
"Over the past few years, he has continuously helped Team 781 gain a reputation of 'being there’. Regardless of whether it is in the local or FIRST community. he has taught students the importance of stepping up and reaching out in times of need. When Team 5051 didn’t have enough members for a drive team, he was inventive and got a member of our team
to step in and be their driver."
The father of one, mentor of many, a friend of all, his impact on the FIRST community goes beyond Team 781.
"Pat has been a core member of our team for years. He continues to inspire and educate generations of students from our team and many others. From rookies to veterans, alumni to mentors, Team 781 is proud to nominate Pat O’Cain for the Woodie Flowers award."
O'Cain's name will now be entered as a finalist for the Woodie Flowers award at the FIRST world championships in St. Louis, Missouri, in April.