Cynette Cavaliere

Woodie Flowers Finalist Award – 2017 Fingerlakes Regional

Student submission:

Self-proclaimed “Parentor” Cynette Cavaliere is a role model for parents in FIRST everywhere. Her son, Tommy, was a founding member of FRC1511, and his enthusiasm was surpassed by his mom’s. She has been a devoted FIRST mentor since 2007, alongside her husband.

Cynette’s passion for STEM outdates her membership on 1511. She studied Environmental Engineering and currently works at GM Component Holdings, finding new innovative ways to recycle and reduce GM’s environmental impact. Taking this message to heart, she drives a Volt, which she powers with solar panels on her house! She spreads her environmental consciousness to us, finding new ways to recycle all the materials we use including dinnerware at build season meals.

Her parental perspective combined with her contagious passion for 1511 makes her a priceless contributor and a gifted teacher. Cynette mentors our marketing, Chairman’s, Awards, Safety, and Bumper subteams! She makes sure every student has worked on the robot, giving every student the opportunity to say, “I helped make that.”

Cynette champions causes that are often overlooked, knowing the impact even the most minor efforts in FIRST can inspire students! Cynette mentors students through organizing the MSDS, business plan and is a big proponent of safety!

Cynette is in touch with the pulse of the FIRST community. She shares success stories from other teams, sports her “Koko Ed is my homeboy” T-shirt, volunteers at FIRST events around the country, and cycles in the Curt’s Ride to Cure Cancer with her buddy, Dave Lavery.

Cynette bridges the gap between FRC1511 and many other Rochester FRC teams, like her work with FRC340 on the FIRST MEGA Drive. It collected 15,000 donations for our communities! The MEGA Drive won a $10k grant in 2013, which was put towards creating and sustaining 6 FRC/FTC teams. Students from both teams were featured with their robots in USA Weekend Magazine.

Cynette is the largest advocate for rookies in FIRST. In 2005, she created a “Rookie Book,” with a page for every rookie team at Champs, complete with pictures, fun facts and awards. She spends countless hours with students putting the book together which makes the rookies feel special. Cynette also coordinates our All Rookie Meet and Greet. Hosted at Champs every year, it welcomes rookie teams to the FIRST community through fun activities focused on meeting new people and gaining resources on sustainability.

As much as we would like to claim Cynette as our mentor, she is truly a mentor to all of FIRST. She lives the FIRST values and ideals every day, in everything she does and is a mentor in every sense of the word. She builds lasting, powerful relationships with all of our students, never missing a birthday! Her always optimistic personality illuminates even the most distant corners of the FIRST community, and in a way, she is a parent to all of us. Her impact will undoubtedly be felt long after her retirement from FIRST and will inspire generations to come!


Larry Lewis

Woodie Flowers Finalist Award – 2013 Finger Lakes Regional

Student Submission:

Larry is the effective and beloved leader and founding mentor of 1511, establishing personal relationships with
 students while innovatively finding new ways to teach the ideals of FIRST! He uses 1511 resources to help teams wherever needed, teaching us many examples of Gracious Professionalism.

Larry’s mentoring goes beyond FRC. He works with our student FLL coordinator to organize FLL camps and events. He helped create 113 FLL and Jr. FLL teams, encouraging us to mentor and volunteer at local events. He worked with our school district to get FLL into the elementary and middle school curriculums to encourage future generations of FIRST students.

Larry’s goal is a completely student-run team. He makes sure the robot is student-designed and built. As an electrical engineer, he has a hands-on training approach by showing, and talking students through the process and having them do it. He trains students in electrical mechanical and strategy skills. He teaches us the engineering design process through a mock build season in the fall in which we build trebuchets and mini robots.

He also teaches us effective communication by running trainings in public speaking, organization and interpersonal skills. He shares his life lessons with us. One student recalls talking to Larry about our chances at a competition and the student didn’t think the team would do well. Larry brought up his common quote “Whether you believe you can or you can’t you’re probably right.”

Larry is the “go to” guy on our team. He has fun, memorable experiences with us all and is often asked to write letters of recommendation. He likes to have fun by teaching us how to play videogames like a pro at our team game nights, while sharing his deep passion f

or coffee. He and students joked around while painting our rookie crate, which we give to the Rookie All-Star at FLR each year.  He even jumps on the jumping pillow at a team building event with us!  By having fun on our team, Larry makes everybody feel like part of the robotics family.

Larry makes an effort to know each of our team members on a personal level. No matter what the problem is, Larry has good advice and always helps. After a student’s baby brother passed away during Build Season, Larry found the time to help the student through the loss and still participate on the team.

He is a role model. Many students credit Larry with inspiring them to pursue science and technology careers and he encourages us to apply for FIRST scholarships. One of our alumni is interning with NASA, and 4 alumni have interned at Harris, where Larry works towards the goal of making 1511 a feeder system for Harris! They often keep in touch with Larry and come back to mentor because of his inspiring influence.

His engaging personality and multitude of interests makes Larry an inspiring leader as well as a good teacher and friend to every student on 511 and to many in FIRST. His positive influence will continue to impact us for many years to come!


Jeff Downs

Woodie Flowers Finalist Award – 2012 Finger Lakes Regional

Student Submission:

Jeff Downs is an admired mentor on our team because of his high energy level (fueled by Chipotle), positive can do attitude, and engagement with students through fun activities, like jumping around at our fall team gathering or jousting with students at the Championships Finale.  Jeff is an inspirational 1511 mentor and a big contributor to the FIRST community.

Jeff has developed programming subteam students into leaders by having the experienced students teach the new students programming skills and tools. He has led our students in beta-testing the new control systems for 4 years, encouraging the students to write the application essay. During beta-testing, they found a bug in the Jaguar speed controller firmware on the CAN bus, which helped FIRST update the system. Our students presented the beta-test results, with Jeff’s guidance, at the Rochester Kickoff for the last 2 years, as well as at offseason competitions.

Jeff uses metaphors to explain complicated concepts such as comparing code functions to the operations of a car. Because of Jeff’s fun teaching style, he has grown the programming subteam from 1 to 11 students and has inspired 8 of our alumni to go into computer engineering. He also inspires students to lead presentations on their personal projects. One student presented at MIT on software he created and thanks Jeff and 1511 for giving him the confidence to do so!

Jeff is a role model for students and mentors through his involvement in FIRST. In addition to mentoring 1511 for over 200 hours in build season, Jeff found the time to train to be a FTA! This year, he is an FTA for 3 regional events: Quebec, Peachtree and Boston. Jeff also assisted in the solving the FLR field management system issues on practice day last year. There is never a moment at rest for Jeff at competitions. Whenever Jeff is not helping 1511, he is helping students on other teams to solve robot issues. When he is not an FTA, he attends other Regionals to help out and share his knowledge. Jeff also participates at the Rochester Robot Quick Build Session.

Jeff improved the experience of our offseason competition, Rah Cha Cha Ruckus, by redesigning the tower lighting. He wrote code to interact with the field management system to closely replicate a FIRST field.

Jeff is also involved with mentoring students in mechanical design, leadership and webpage. He also supports our team communications and internet functions by managing our team email lists and our build season wiki. Jeff reviews students’ mechanical designs and offers up improvements by asking students what could go wrong with their designs, how they could prevent these problems, and helps students weigh the pros and cons of their ideas to find the best solution. Jeff’s motto is that the students will get as much out of FIRST as they put in to it.

Jeff has positively affected every student on 1511 and many in FIRST. He will continue to inspire and motivate students for years to come!