I had the pleasure of meeting Francois Castaing last year at an event, that was pretty cool. I’ve also met Tom Stevens multiple times at events, I think the first time was World’s in 2011. Both were truly inspirational people.
Any number of the first engineers are always cool to speak with. Getting the inside look of how the whole operation comes together is exceptionally fun and worthwhile. From the mechanical engineers helping design the field elements, to the electrical and programming side of the design. I always walk away from a conversation with them a little bit more understanding of how difficult their job is to create a functioning field that takes as much abuse as it gets during the course of an event.
Number 1, far and away, is Woodie Flowers. On at least 2 occasions, as far back as 2005 and just last year at the Troy District (FiM). That created a bittersweet moment for me at the Troy FLL tournament in Nov 2019, when I realized the last time I was in that room I was speaking with Woodie.
Others I’d have to say I really respect and enjoyed meeting are Andy Baker (and his family) and Al Skierkiewicz. And I got to speak to Dean once (a sentence or two).
That’s not to dismiss the host of other wonderful people I’ve met: Karthik, the Mark half of AndyMark, Ken Patton, CD’s own @Billfred, Paul Copioli, the Fultz family, a slew of referees, RI’s and FTA’s, etc. I can’t keep naming them, I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of names.
I think I’d give it to Mark Leon. Back when I was a student, we were a completely unknown team and he always made us feel important by spending some time off-field talking to us about our robot or his work at NASA. He even flew down to our school and gave a talk about rovers on the moon and Mars. Super cool guy.
Also, we ran into will.i.am at the hotel after #TSMFD at Champs in 2016. He was a super nice guy, very down to earth, very easy to talk to.
I’ve met the big four - Dean, Woodie, Don, and Frank…and that’s of course pretty cool, but of the less common figures, the coolest are probably Megan Smith (United States Chief Technology Officer under President Obama) and Scott Evans (designer of the FLL game board). Both were at the 2016 world Championship (wow I look like a baby).
@Katie_UPS - Seeing her in-action with her team and how she scouts was an amazing experience at the 2018 World CMP in Houston. I mean, we’re best friends so seeing her any time is awesome- but I was particularly inspired by her in that moment because she was so focused and did an amazing job at guiding her students.
@Amanda_Morrison - I met her at IRI in 2008 and she’s been my role model ever since. In my world she’s legendary, one of the great FRC Celebs from the “good-old-days”. I hear great stories about her work in Indiana before she went out to the East Coast and stories of her on FRC 71.
Susan Lawrence - She empowered me to start up the University of Minnesota Robotics Student Group (formerly GOFIRST) and used to run all of the Midwest-area Regionals before they identified their own local contacts to bring on board. She would be Woodie Flower’s guide at the World Championship events, and it’s sad but funny that I have more photos with me and Susan from when I would run into her at the World Championships guiding Woodie around, then I got with me and Woodie Flowers when I saw them at the same time. (Obviously, Woodie was always amazing to meet).
@Liz_Smith - She can connect a washing machine to the FMS system and is an amazing drive coach who does a great job at empowering her students. She is also an excellent moderator and can help you understand the viewpoint of the person you’re debating with.
@KevinRo - Get Kevin on a topic and get him talking and you can sit for hours entertained at the stories he can tell.
Nick Hammes - We were room-mates in college but his energy is amazing and it’s a blast to see, chat, and banter with him about FIRST! (and Districts)
@Kyle_Hughes - We had the chance to pick FRC 27 on our 8th seeded alliance in Minnesota in 2013, it was super awesome to watch her work with the drive crew and build one team/alliance from the three separate teams.
Erica Fessia is the VP of Field Operations at FIRST, I was able to listen to her participate on a panel at the FIRST Championship in Detroit in 2018 while she was still the Director of Community engagement with Qualcomm. Her personal life story (which she shared while on the panel) is fascinating and I always take away an interesting book, leadership tip, or recommendation when I interact with her. I really appreciate her leadership during this time.