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Mike Betts
Mike Betts Name: Mike Betts
Date Honored: 07-14-2005
Years involved w/FIRST: 11
FIRST Team(s): UTC Power &, South Windsor High School (0177)
Role: Electrical Engineer
Quote: “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of time and it annoys the pig.” - Robert A. Heinlein
Bio: Mike Betts best describes his involvement on Team 177 as "team coordinator (corporate side) for the first 7 years of our partnership with South Windsor High School. I now serve as mentor to the controls group on our team." Mike has been volunteering with FIRST for the past eleven years, and has served as a very important volunteer with Team 177.

The picture above shows Mike receiving the UTC Volunteer's Award in 1999. However, Mike maintains that the best accomplishments in those 11 years are not simply team awards, but the accomplishments of the students on his team. "In the light of day, the accomplishments which matter have little to do with awards and other team or personal accolades. The real accomplishment is in watching your students develop from adolescents into adults and allowing yourself some small credit for their development. Pope St. Gregory the Great listed pride as the first of the Seven Deadly Sins. With due respect to The Dao, I maintain that not all pride is evil. The pride I feel may be partially vicarious in nature but remains a main reason why I mentor in FIRST. Bottom line: The accomplishments of my students are my greatest accomplishments."

It's often said to outsiders of FIRST that they need to come to a competition to really 'get' what FIRST means. Mike has a story of his own. "In 1996, the New England Tournament (it was not even called a regional yet) was moved from Manchester High School to New Hampshire College. There was a small balcony overlooking the pit area at the competition. From this vantage point, one could look down upon 50 teams furiously working on their robots. Sparks were flying from grinders, cut off wheels and poor electrical connections. The floor was covered in metal chips, sawdust, bits of electrical wire and discarded mechanisms. The sound was a pure white noise and the smell was a mixture of burned Tekin speed controllers, WD40 and sweat. It was freezing rain outside but it was over 90 degrees in that pit. However, the dominant feature was over 300 students working beside over 300 mentors in an area that should have held a third that number. I remember looking down from that balcony, taking in that scene and reflecting back on events leading up to it. It was at that point that I consciously understood what a unique and powerful program I was involved with. It was at that point I lamented the fact that there had been no such program for me when I was in high school. It was at that point that I realized that I was regarding members of other teams with feelings of kinship. They were no longer competitors. It was at that point that I knew that the students I had mentored would forever be “my kids”. Looking down from that balcony, I “got it”."

Mike also has some advice for his fellow FIRSTers: "(To the adults) Keeping your hands in your pockets is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It is also one of the more important things you will ever do…

(Student corollary) You will help your mentor keep his or her hands in his or her pockets if you strive to keep your hands out of yours…

(To the students) This is the “cheapest” chance to fail you will ever have. Spend at least one of your four years learning a completely different discipline. If you are a programmer, learn how to weld. If you are a lathe operator, learn animation. Take a year off from crimping wires and learn to operate a CNC mill. Let someone else do media relations and learn CAD… The short term impact on the team will be much less than you fear. The long term benefit to both you and the team will be enormous."

Congratulations to Mike Betts, our next Unsung FIRST Hero.

Nominated By: Alex Pelan

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