What a devastating loss! My heart goes out to the Kamens.
Even though I have seen him judge at countless events over the years, I can only recall two conversations I ever personally had with Bart. The first was at the very first Regional event I ever attended…the 2002 Long Island Regional. Bart was a judge, of course. I was a pimply-faced, smart-mouthed, (sometimes troublemaking) junior in high school and really had no idea what I had gotten myself into. On Friday morning, Bart came to our pit and I was one of the students he approached - he was the first judge I ever spoke to. I didn’t know much about robots, mechanisms, or programming then…but I had enthusiasm to spare! We talked about the robot a little bit, but Bart was a lot more interested in hearing about our team, which already felt like a family to me, and what we were getting out of the program. He asked about my future plans and I remember telling him I really had no idea, but that computer programming was something that interested me. He encouraged me to try my hand at it with the robot in the following season.
Our robot in 2002 was not very good, but we were awarded the Team Spirit award for our collective enthusiasm about our team and FIRST. I remember feeling ecstatic about the award - the first trophy I had won since Tee ball. In 2003, I became the team’s lead programmer and we went to Einstein. I never looked back.
Flash forward a decade to 2012 at the Hatboro-Horsham District Event. Once again I crossed paths with Bart, being (re-)introduced by our regional director Donald Bowers. I told Bart about my past ten years…a master’s degree, a job in robotics, and continued mentorship of my alma mater. Bart hung on every word and when I was done thanking him for the push in the right direction ten years prior, he gave me a firm hand shake and had a beaming smile across his face.
It will feel very strange not to see Bart at any competitions this year. But if there is a heaven, I’m pretty freaking sure that he will meet the entrance criteria.