Team 476, Thanks for everything.

First, I would like to congratulate team 476 on their well deserved achievements at the Lone Star Regional. The point of this thread, however, is to forward on a letter written by my mother, Denise Bohnsack, regarding her appreciation for the Wildcats of Ponca City Oklahoma, team 476. Team 476 is a fantastic team, and everyone should be aware of their outstanding efforts in the state of Oklahoma. Here is their story from a mother’s point of view.

A Bright enough Spark in a Blizzard can Start a Flame.

I am writing to recognize the incredible acts of “gracious professionalism” performed by the Ponca City, OK. team. I am not writing from an engineer’s perspective but from a mother’s heart. My husband and I are neither engineers, nor know anything of the field. However, as volunteers for other organizations ourselves, we can fully appreciate the time and sacrifices volunteers make to better the community or organizations they represent.

My son, and his FIRST teams, have been blessed by the Superhuman efforts of the Ponca City team. In particular, the efforts of Ken York and Ed Latimer, ConocoPhillips employees, and Tonya Scott, teacher and FIRST extraordinary. They have become strong role models for my son, he looks up to them in the same way that some young men look up to athletic stars. He wears their team’s Tshirts, and proudly displays pictures of himself with the team. This wonderful group of people have taken my son under their wing and have encouraged him, challenged him and taken his talents to new heights. This is the amazing thing. They aren’t even on his team. While developing a young team in another state we were located, my son sought out the help from a home state team, Oklahoma, in hopes of developing a program in the school he was located. Oklahoma has few teams, but the Ponca City team is one of the best. Team 476 was quick to respond, outlining the things he needed to do, and the entire time helping him through the process of forming a FIRST team. This takes a significant amount of time. The Harmony, Florida team my son founded went on to win the Rookie Inspiration Award. Without the advice and direction of the Ponca City team, such accomplishments would not be possible. Most importantly, my son has learned from his role models, the importance of mentoring and challenging others. Gracious professionalism has become his motto and a part of his everyday actions. He has no time for the activities that usually get young men into trouble, he is too busy helping other teams build robots and cheerleading the FIRST message.

My son is now in college. He continues to volunteer full force with the FIRST organization. He chose to go to a college nearby FIRST teams he supports. He has worked hard for the past two years to start a team in the city he was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. However, he lives far away and cannot be onsite. Once again, Barry reached out for Ponca City’s help for this dual effort. The Ponca City team is working hard to make opportunities to develop teams in Oklahoma and to facilitate a Regional in the state. The beginning of the 2007 build season was paralyzed by tremendous ice storms which shut down the state for a week. Areas near Bartlesville were declared a disaster area, with roads being impassible, and dangerous, freezing conditions shutting down the area. School was closed for the week during the critical beginning of build season. Unfortunately, this is when the Ponca team were scheduled to meet with the rookie team. For any other group, this would unquestionably cancel a scheduled meeting. But we’re not talking about any group here. We are talking about a FIRST team, one that defies the norm and overcomes the impossible. Determined to help the Bartlesville team get going, the team found a vehicle which could travel the terrain with the robot aboard and headed to Bartlesville. A trip that would normally take a little over an hour, took 3 and a half hours to reach the city. Students and mentors were available at the Tri County Tech Center so when Ed, Ken and the team arrived the new students and teachers could learn from the valuable advice and observe the Ponca City robot. It was the bright spark in a blizzard that started a flame.

Throughout the process of building a new team, Ponca City was available in every way possible to the new team, often putting the new team before the good of their own. Usually being against a new team would be a competitive advantage. In FIRST, as Ponca City so perfectly demonstrates, lifting up another team, instead of taking advantage, is the norm. The Kansas City Regional was buzzing with 45 teams. In the finals, the new Bartlesville team was rated 6th and the Ponca City team 8th. The Bartlesville team thought they would have an opportunity to select the Ponca team for an ally but were selected by the 3rd seeded team. The Ponca City team was eliminated earlier on and later, the Bartlesville team lost in the final match against the 1st seed alliance. However, the rookies walked away with the Rookie All Star award and will be attending International Competition in Atlanta. Where else but in FIRST could this happen? The Rookie All Star award is as much a reflection of the Ponca City team efforts as the newly formed rookie team they mentored. Their members were as excited for the team as anyone and were the first to congratulate the overwhelmed students, many who have now chosen to enter the field of engineering. A FIRST success story for certain.

Does FIRST and the role models in the program make a difference? We all the know the answer now.
I am just a mother with a great big heart for the Ponca City team and the difference they are making in the world one student at a time. Ed, Ken, Tonya and their team members are the heroes of today and builders of leaders for the future. Is there an award for building a student leader? If not, I have this one. A giant hug. Mom Style. You can’t display it in a trophy case but maybe, somehow in FIRST, it’s good enough.

I am forever grateful.

Denise Bohnsack AKA - Barry’s Mom

They don’t let a little bit of rain dampen their spirits either. :slight_smile:

Totally awesome.



Thank you for posting this. It should be an inspiration to all. Sometimes we forget that FIRST isn’t really about the robots. THIS is FIRST at its finest. Thank YOU, Thank you 476, and thank you FIRST for giving us the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.


Barry and all thank you from us here at 476 for the kind words. We deeply appreciate it. From my personal standpoint this is exactly why I have stayed with FIRST for 8 years. I see the potential it has to make a difference in students and adults lifes. For those students that read this remember to thank the people that support you Mentors Parents Friends Sponsors School.
You have something in this program that is unique and special.
Mentors - say thanks to your students - for they keep us young and on our toes.

Hope to see all in Atlanta.