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Name: Wayne Cokeley
Date Honored: 12-15-2004
Years involved w/FIRST: 9
FIRST Team(s): Bristol-Myers Squibb &, North Brunswick Twp. High School (0025), Bristol-Myers Squibb/Machine Medic/SPECO Tile &, Marble, Inc. &, Hightstown High School (1089)
Role: Head Coach
Quote: “Anything the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
Bio: Wayne Cokeley is the spirit behind teams 25 and 1089. Well known on the ChiefDelphi forums, he is a charismatic leader and a helpful voice. He is very enthusiastic about the FIRST program, and describes his years of involvement as 'nine going on forever'.
Wayne had quite a few touching FIRST memories. "In the years that Raider Robotix has been around I’ve had more great times than I can remember. The team has won numerous awards including the National Championships and I am very proud of all of them.
"If I had to remember one thing I recall that in our first year, as a struggling team, our student team leader was the first senior we graduated to go to college. In the last days of that school year his mother, a single parent Chinese lady, showed up at our department with a $1000 check for the team for the next season. Amazed at this generous donation, we asked her why and she simply said “My husband has been gone for some time and my son has been without a father. His involvement in your team has given him the kinds of things his father would have. I want to help the team so they can continue next year. Thank you.” I still get weepy at that one.
"And then there were those robot to robot memories. In 2003 the Wildstang wonder machine was a techno marvel that conformed to the platform with retractable ramps and wouldn’t let other robots to the top of the “king of the hill”. We went out with the Evil Machine flying juggernaut and our driver Steve Cosgrove. In the Nationals we made it all the way to the finals that year only to lose to those guys in the tie dye in the final rounds. So we wanted another shot.
"And that shot came, after a lot of talk on CD, at the IRI tourney all the way out in Indianapolis. I still remember the round. The bins flew, the robots battled and as the final 20 seconds ticked off we were at the bottom of the ramp with Wildstang up top with their ramps down. Ten , nine, eight, seven, six- and the robot began to lift their flaps so they cleared the ramp. Timing the play perfectly, driver Steve set the Evil Machine flying brick in motion and caught Stang with their flaps up. Both robots flew off the platform and down the other side. Three –two- one- and Evil Machine flew up to the platform and parked- taking the exact spot Stang was in second before. The crowd exploded. We all were as happy as if we won the Nationals. Amazing what a great driver and a great machine can do."
Wayne also had a few things to say about his team's numerous achievements. "Anyone can look up team 25 and see the list of awards we have won over the years but I think our bigger accomplishments have come in developing young people and new teams into the next generation of FIRSTers. Team 25 won the Nationals in 2000 after a miraculous season that still amazes us. Since that time the team has had a mission of giving back our good fortune to others. We opened the doors to our sponsor Bristol Myers Squibb and now they sponsor six teams. We mentor other local teams and developed the RINOS team development program. Our team does much to support the NJ regional and we host our own off season Brunswick Eruption event. We, so far, have graduated 47 students into technology based college careers and have touched the lifes of hundreds of others. Our school and community know us and respect us as a bunch of crazy kids in Hawaiian shirts who are moving in the right direction. Just today, as the paid head coach of Raider Robotix, my assistant coach and I measured our new robot lab and storage area. Never expected that 9 years ago…. And we have fun. Lots of fun. With robots……."
To finish off, Wayne had a lot of great advice for his fellow FIRSTers. "I’ve seen miracles with my team. I’ve seen the least likely kids do the most spectacular and amazing things and earn the respect of everyone. As a teacher, to shape kids lives in a positive way like that is a rare opportunity that keeps me coming back.
"It doesn’t matter how many trophies you win or whether your machine is made of gold. It does matter that the kids develop a sense of belonging to a team they can be proud of and that they grow. Everybody has something they can contribute to a team and, if they show the initiative, they should be allowed to express it.
"And FIRST should be fun. When it isn’t it is time to leave."
Congratulations to Wayne Cokeley for being honored as our next Unsung FIRST Heroes Award.
Nominated By: Bharat Nain, Mike Ciance, Corey Balint, cyborgvr
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