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Ken Leung
Ken Leung Name: Ken Leung
Date Honored: 01-15-2004
Years involved w/FIRST: 6
FIRST Team(s): PDI Dreamworks/SRI International/A Better Mousetrap Machining/OutBack Manufacturing &, Woodside High School &, Carlmont High School (0100), Roku &, Gunn High School (0192), The Sea Dawgs (0258), Rambots (0419)
Role: WRRF member, College mentor
Quote: You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – R. Buckminster Fuller
Bio: Ken Leung is a well known member of the ChiefDelphi Forums, the WRRF, and FIRST Robotics as a whole. A scorekeeper for California regionals, winner of the Volunteer Award, and even organizer of the CalGames, it seems as though Ken rarely has time to sit down. Still, he rarely takes the credit for all of his accomplishments: "Whether it’s mentoring a team, or running an off season competition, or volunteering at a competition, I wouldn’t have been able to do them without everyone else involved. Those, I see as accomplishments of the community. It’s the effort of participants that make them possible, I am proud of being a part of them."

Ken hails from Palo Alto, California, and has been involved in FIRST for six years. Unlike many robotics students, Ken came from a different background that made it hard for him to immediately adjust. "I started out as one of those kids who are in everyone’s way. I had absolutely no idea what a wrench is, much less a 130 lbs robot. What made it worse was I spoke very little English as a 3rd year immigrant from Hong Kong. I almost quit the team because I didn’t get along with my group leader. But I found my way around the machine shop and became good with the tools, and played a major role in building the 2000 robot." Ken was one of the operators of the Gunn Robotics Team's 2000 robot, and decided to stick with FIRST through college. "I became a college mentor after I graduated high school, and volunteered at competitions as inspector. Now I am the event manager of WRRF’s California Robot Games, and scorekeeper for some California Regionals. Three things that changed my role in FIRST: found out about www.chiefdelphi.com from GRT’s student leader Daniel Lehrbaum, got to know GRT’s engineer Ken Krieger and went to Manchester kickoff with him at 2001, and joined WRRF. Since then, I found myself making a lot of friends, volunteering at competitions, and doing something I feel is important."

While many consider awards and medals their accomplishments, Ken has different ideas. "Some would consider winning Volunteer award and running a successful off-season big accomplishments, but my biggest accomplishment in FIRST is overcoming my fears. As many know, I came here from Hong Kong in '95. I was very anti-social and quiet because of my language skills (or the lack of them), and I feared interacting with people. I had no goals in life. I didn’t care about anything. The Gunn Robotics Team and FIRST changed all that. Every single person I met in the team and at competition taught me that there are wonderful people out there. All the things I heard or read told me there is more to life than watching TV or playing video games. I learned that I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it. That’s my personal accomplishments in FIRST."

Ken gave us two very monumental memories in his FIRST career. "The night before Manchester kickoff on Friday, after hanging out with the California coaches and Andy Baker, we went back to the Holiday Inn. It just so happens that Jason Morrella and Ken Krieger were sitting in the hotel lounge chatting about FIRST. I sat down next to them listening to every little thing Jason had to say about FIRST, its staff, and about different teams around the country. The whole time I didn’t say a thing, sat in my chair and stared at the floor, rocking back and forth listening to the amazing things Jason has to say. When we finally went back to our room, Ken said to me, “Sorry for boring you. You look like you were almost falling asleep there.” That whole time I thought to myself “WOW! I had NO IDEA this is so AMAZING! I’ve got to get addicted!” It was the first time I’ve decided I want to be part of something bigger than myself. To this day I still smile to myself about this little moment…"

Another touching team memory sticks in Ken's mind: "It was the last day of 6 weeks going back and forth between [the Gunn Robotics Team] and college. Around 3am before I had to leave for Berkeley that morning, I wanted to say good bye to the team so I gathered everyone together. Everyone knows my biggest weakness is public speaking, but I decided I had to do it anyway. I said to the team “I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing group these 6 weeks. This is such a wonderful experience, and I thank you for letting me be part of this team. Even though I won’t be seeing you guys for a while, I am extremely proud of what you did. I will never forget this. See you at competition!” The whole time I was sweating and shuddering, but what the team didn’t know was, I could barely stop myself from starting to cry. To this day, I'll never forget those 6 weeks with GRT."

Ken also believes in the future of FIRST. "Be yourself in FIRST. Just because it is a robotics competition, doesn’t mean you have to build the robot, win the competition, or go into engineering after high school. The most important part is spending your time doing something you believe in. Many times people don’t know what they want to do with their life, and best way to understand yourself is by participating in your life. FIRST is a great place that lets you experience your life. Constantly learn from your experience, open yourself to different area in this program, and observe the one you call “me” through challenges and difficulties. You might be amazed by what you find once you start looking."

Congratulations to honoree Ken Leung and his tireless contributions.

Nominated By: Rob Colatutto

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