|Traction is good but a good driver will always win over a good robot. - Mike Norton [more]|
Name: Dan Larochelle
Date Honored: 09-15-2006
Years involved w/FIRST: 13
FIRST Team(s): intelitek/BAE Systems &, Trinity High School (0040)
Role: Lead Engineer
Quote: “Driving the robot is not as easy as it looks from the stands.” - Freshman Driver
Bio: Dan Larochelle is a FIRST legend. Working for intelitek, he is the man behind the creation of the EasyC programming software that has helped both FRC and FVC teams for the past few years. Participating on Team 40, Dan described his role on the team: " am the lead engineer on the team and am involved in all the aspects regarding the robot’s design and construction. I am also the driving coach for the team. Joe Pouliot, Trinity HS physics teacher, and I work together to coordinate all the team’s activities throughout the year. We conduct CAD, CAM, CNC training at intelitek to get students ready for the 6-week build season. We also organize fundraisers and FIRST awareness events throughout the year. Last year we used the Vex robotics system, easyC and the Robotics Engineering Curriculum to teach all the new students about robotics and FIRST. This led to the idea to construct the Mini FRC field (and robots) we used to prototype the 2006 game."
Dan also had some pretty touching moments that he described as favorites. "I have had many great FIRST memories over the years, but two standout the most. In 1996, at the Nationals at Disney, we played in an elimination match against team 177, the Bobcats. They had a great robot that year and we were a very big underdog. One of the students noticed the Bobcats had to deliver a bag to the lower part of the goal to score points. We delivered a few balls into the lower goal and then the rest of the match we played defense. Our plywood-based robot, ironically named the “Dark Horse”, beat a great robot by using strategy and strong defense. This was the first really big match we had ever won and I will never forget the great feeling of pride I had that day. This past year team 1685 was having trouble with making their shooter work correctly at the Boston Regional. The shooter worked great mechanically, but they could not do the programming to get it to load and shoot correctly. When I met them on Thursday of the regional, they were very discouraged and were ready to pack it in and go home. My team and I offered programming assistance using mentors trained in EasyC. We were able to help them resolve the programming issues within an hour. They did a great job on Friday and Saturday, finishing the qualifying matches as the 4th seed. At the end of the competition they thanked us and told me how easyC and our team’s help turned their entire weekend around.
"My team and I have helped many teams in the past with a variety of things, but we have never had this much impact on any one team. It was an amazing feeling. If it were not for easyC, this team would have had a very different experience. It feels great to finally give back to FIRST with my involvement in the creation of easyC for FRC."
Dan has quite a few FIRST accomplishments to be proud of as well: "Over my 13 years in FIRST I have done many things that I am proud of. In 1996, I was one of the first college graduates to run a FIRST team (Team 238). I was the only engineer on the team that year and it was a great learning experience. I have been a mentor for teams 190, 238 and 40. Ten years ago, I was on the founding RiverRage planning committee; the longest running FIRST offseason. My team (40) is known as the best second place team ever, never winning a regional but coming close many times (maybe it’s me!)
Some people know me as the “easyC guy”, which is kind of funny because I am a Mechanical Engineer. I am Project Manager for development of easyC for both FRC and Vex, and I served on the 2006 FVC game design committee. I have also held many training sessions at FRC and FVC events for programming. Over the past two years I was able to put my FIRST experience to work with a team of teachers and FIRST mentors to develop the intelitek Robotics Engineering Curriculum, which I am very proud of."
We asked Dan to come up with a sentence or two describing FIRST to an outsider. We got a pretty good response: "FIRST is a robotics program that introduces students to science and technology. It allows students to experience engineering first hand and to be part of a team. It has all the excitement of being on a sports team plus the added benefit of exercising your brain. There is nothing else like it!"
Finally, we asked Dan for some advice to fellow FIRSTers. "Students – Make the most of this wonderful experience because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have had many students come back years later and tell me how much they miss FIRST. Some of these students have become mentors, but the transition from student to mentor is not for everyone, especially with all the added responsibilities. Keep trying new tasks on your team. The FIRST experience has so much more to offer besides building a robot. The most important things are to work hard and have fun doing it.
"Mentors – As the years pass, it is easy to get caught up in all the things that make FIRST great: the competition, rivalries, and elegant robot design, but it is important not to lose track of the most important thing; the inspiring and developing of the students."
Congratulations to Dan Larochelle, our next Unsung FIRST Hero.
Nominated By: gren737
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