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John E. Vielkind-Neun
John E. Vielkind-Neun Name: John E. Vielkind-Neun
Date Honored: 07-31-2003
Years involved w/FIRST: 4
FIRST Team(s): Division by Zero - Clarkson SPEED Program &, Massena Central High School &, Salmon River High School (0229)
Role: Team Leader
Quote: “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." - Sir Issac Newton
Bio: John E. Vielkind-Neun is our first FIRST ‘unsung hero’ because of his outstanding accomplishments in the FIRST community. Hailing from Clifton Park and Potsdam, New York, John has been a member of two different FIRST teams in his four completed years in the program. On team #250, John was a student captain in high school, and both a driver and human player. Currently on team #229 “Division by Zero”, John was Team Leader in 2003 and Strategy Head in 2002. He tells us he tries to focus mainly on leadership, mechanical design, and strategy/coaching. He is also going into his Junior year at Clarkson, earning degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics.

Although John is very involved in the mechanical and leadership aspects of his team, he’s not all business. Some of his favorite FIRST memories include the Cleveland Regional in 2002, when his robot caught fire in Long Island in 2000 and his team had to settle for the silver as a result, “The Hail Mary” in Long Island 2001, and watching the finals in Houston this year from the field (and seeing Andy Baker win the Woodie Flowers Award). Some of his favorite ‘mentor memories’ include seeing this mentor from #250, Paul Kane, in Connecticut and Houston this year (“It was cool being able to show him everything I had done on #229”) and seeing their HS driver Brian head off to Embry Riddle in Arizona (“There is nothing quite like seeing one of the ‘kids’ you’ve been mentoring get into college, and move on”).

Now that he’s been through both high school and college FIRST teams, John’s got a little bit of advice for us to take to heart. “College Freshmen – Don’t jump right in to FIRST. Take some time, and get adjusted to college. Explore things… ‘find yourself’… FIRST is a tremendous time commitment, and doing it in college is like nothing you’ll experience. Take some time before you get into it.

“Everyone- Always be polite and courteous to mentors, any mentors. Be respectful, and listen… you’ll be surprised what they will be more than willing to teach you. Remember, no matter what, you don’t know everything. Listen to what everyone has to say… I’m still amazed what I learn from even my youngest HS kids. We all have a lot to learn and we also all have a lot to teach others. FIRST is an amazing opportunity for learning. Make friends, the people are what makes this competition great! Also, remember that refs are people, too. They are trying their best so that YOU can have a positive experience. Cut them some slack.”

He tells us that some of his greatest accomplishments in FIRST are ‘surviving as a college FIRST team mentor’, ‘becoming the first-ever college Head Referee’, and the humble ‘earning a few awards and medals here and there…’. He credits his most important accomplishment to pulling team #229 back together after the accident - "I'm still amazed at all the progress Eric and I have made since then, especially considering what this team went through."

John is also very humble when chalking everything up to the people that got him where he is today. He says, “I have been honored here, so I feel it’s only fair to honor those who helped me get here. To honor me, should be to honor them… My father is a mechanical engineer, and he’s influenced my life in ways I can’t even begin to imagine… My mentor, Paul Kane from #250, who has taught me all about FIRST, and how to build these wonderful robots… Many of you don’t realize it, but your FIRST experience has probably been influence by Paul in some way. I’m proud to be one of his students… All the #229ers, especially Eric O’Brien and Chris Carnevale… I’ve really learned a lot since I came to #229, and Eric is one of the major reasons. He always provides me with another perspective on things, and drives me to the next level. Without Eric, I wouldn’t be half the mentor I am today. Chris Carnevale, the human FIRST database… he has helped to open my eyes to the “big picture” of FIRST. He (along with Eric and others) kept me sane during my season as team leader. Without them, I probably would have burned out completely.”

Lastly, he thanks the Chief Delphi community for his success. “I also have to give a shout out to all of the Chief Delphi “greats” (you know who you are). Reading the things you all have posted over the years has helped me grow into the person I am. So… thank you.”

Thank you, John, for your dedication and contributions to the FIRST community.


Nominated By: Amanda Morrison, Amanda Aldridge, Josh Hambright

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