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Kimberly O'Toole
Kimberly O'Toole Name: Kimberly O'Toole
Date Honored: 04-15-2006
Years involved w/FIRST: 10
FIRST Team(s): UTC Hamilton Sundstrand &, Suffield High School &, Windsor Locks High School (0176), Division by Zero - Clarkson SPEED Program &, Massena Central High School &, Salmon River High School (0229), Harris Corporation &, Penfield High School (1511)
Role: Team Leader
Quote: "Excellence - is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible."
Bio: Kim O'Toole is a leader from Team #1511, and has got ten years of FIRST experience behind her. Working with three different teams throughout the years, her knowledge and drive have show through over time. She has quite a complicated job on her team: "I have the role of team leader, more so than ever on any of the FIRST teams I have been on. Officially I act as project manager/engineer. I manage the budget & schedule, I steer the team when they get off track, I help develop the leadership team, I coordinate activities, I make major decisions. Unofficially, I like to think I’m a friend and confidant for both my students and mentors. We are truly a family, and I feel its my responsibility to help both my students and mentors grow. I try and push them out of their comfort zones, make them try things they never thought they could, and help them truly learn the meaning of FIRST."

Kim also had a few great memories to share. "I can't choose just one… so I have to give two. My second year on 229, a HS freshman joined our team. He was quiet and fairly shy most of the year. We were still young, and hadn’t reached every student yet. It was the week of ship. We had a demonstration to give to the community, and our mechanical system was far from done. We finally finished and I had to jump in there to do the wiring. Since FIRST is about the HS students, I decided to try and get them involved. The freshman had been watching us, and I decided to ask him. I think I barely knew his name. So I sat down with him teaching him the different gauges, which ones went to speed controllers, what a PWM was, and on and on. We probably spent 4 hours wiring the robot together, but he picked it up quickly. I can still remember his parents coming to pick him up for hockey practice, and he actually came to me to ask if it was ok if he left! He was so excited, and really didn’t want to miss anything! The way he & I worked there and at competition was a flashback to my HS mentor, and it was just an amazing feeling to be in that position.

"My second is with 1511 last year. They worked so hard all year, often following my ideas and direction on blind faith. But I told them we were in a big pond, we couldn’t expect much… lets just go have fun, and don’t worry about the awards or winning. But at every single event last year, they made me cry. They were all happy tears. From our very first RAS and realizing we could go to championships, to the special M&M (Mir & Mirza) awards ceremony they did for all the mentors, giving me the special award, to winning the Toronto Regional & finally winning the Championship RAS. They were so amazing, so new, and so excited!"

Kim has been "first" in a lot of ways. She tipped us off to a few of her accomplishments over the years. "I was a founding student of 176, the founder of 229, and now the founder & team leader of 1511. When I left my high school team and was choosing colleges, I had to stay in FIRST, but not because of the robots. I felt that I owed it to the community, to the country, to my mentors, to take the time to inspire just one student, the way I had been inspired. But now I have so much more. My first year on 229, we placed ~48/50, but the kids loved it! I had students switching majors, transferring to Clarkson, wanting to explore engineering. It was a success! I had parents thanking me because “their student had never been so excited about something ever in their life.” It was an amazing feeling. So when I finally moved on to my job at Harris, I saw the chance to inspire more students, the chance to do more, and to really build “a dream team.” 1511 got it from the beginning, and continues to impress me. But the biggest accomplishment to me is the lives we have been able to change. I see how much these students have grown, and sometimes its scary how much they look to me, but then I look back at where each of them was a year or two ago, and its phenomenal the effort they have put in and the changes that have come over them."

She also had a great description for people new to FIRST. "FIRST is an amazing chance to be involved in inspiring and building the future. FIRST not only inspires students in science and technology, it gives them confidence, leadership & real life exposure that will help them succeed no matter what they do. It gives many students the chance they may never have had otherwise. It gives the students who aren’t the A students or the great athletes a chance to shine, to show what they are made of!"

And finally, Kim gave some of her fellow FIRSTers some advice. "Give back & work hard & be a team. Whether its teaching someone about something technical, listening to them about life, being a friend, having fun, or picking them up when they fall down. FIRST is all about the relationships. Yeah you will learn plenty of technical stuff, but the way to change lives is to “care more than others think is wise.” Give it everything you’ve got!"

Congratulations to Kim O'Toole, our next Unsung FIRST Hero.

Nominated By: Ashley Christine, Ellery

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