UFH: Jason Morrella

Thread created automatically to discuss UFH Honoree: Jason Morrella.


Name: Jason Morrella
Date Honored: 08-14-2003
Years involved w/FIRST: 6
FIRST Team(s): FIRST / Other (0000), NASA Ames Research Center &, Bellarmine College Prep (0254)
Role: FIRST Regional Director, Team Consultant
Bio: Jason Morrella has been selected as our second Unsung FIRST Hero because of his amazing contributions to the program and to team #254, the Cheesy Poofs.

Jason was a co-founder, teacher, and coach on the team from 1999-2002. The Cheesy Poofs are a well known team for their engineering expertise, friendly demeanor, and competitive edge. Jason has helped propel this team in all the right directions (along with Steve Kyramarios, Bob Holmes, and Mark Leon), and it shows. Prior to his activity on #254, Jason helped to recruit and advise rookie teams in Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, and other western areas of the USA. He also dedicated much time and effort into planning, starting and running FIRST regionals in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, Denver, and the Pacific Northwest. These accomplishments alone are mind-boggling!

Jason tells us that one of the most valuable and memorable aspects of being involved in FIRST is getting to know special friends and people along the way. Jason tells us, “Nothing really reflects how special FIRST is than the fact it is impossible to list all the special and impressive people I have come to know and count as friends. I would never have known [those people] without FIRST. These people not only become friends, but also are people you can admire and learn from.”

Although he says that “There are so many great ‘competition/robot’ moments, I couldn’t really pick one – seems like every year has some exciting and memorable match or occurrence…”, Jason credits his students with most of his favorite memories. “As with getting to know so many wonderful students (not only on 254 but many other teams in California, the west, and around the country) and watch them evolve and grow into the impressive people they are and will be – seeing the potential in students, who sometimes don’t even realize their own potential, and then seeing them grow into and apply that potential through the challenges of FIRST always becomes a special memory.”

Like a true mentor, Jason believes in FIRST and the effects it has on students. “Never forget that 90% (at least) of the impact one gets from participating in FIRST is achieved away from the actual “competition”. The true impact of FIRST - the memories, the lessons, the skills you acquire, and the friends you make – the treasures which will add to your life for years to come, happen regardless of what “place” a robot finishes in during a competition. Attitude is everything, and those who remain positive, enthusiastic, and committed to making a difference in the world and the lives of those around them will frequently do so. There are hundreds and thousands of such people involved in FIRST and with teams around the country – all of whom should be proud, admired, and respected.”

Jason credits himself with being an educator, a FIRST Regionals Director, a proud alumni, and consultant for #254, but he is much more than that. Jason is an inspiration to the whole FIRST community, and we credit him with being our second Unsung FIRST Hero.

Nominated By: confidential

Congratulations to Jason Morrella for being honored as our second Unsung FIRST Hero!

Congrats Jason, you deserve this!

You deserve a box of fresh Krispy Kremes.

Congrats, you deserve this!!

Congrats to Jason.

Hey Jason… at least I’m not the only person to spell your name wrong ;)… then again… I have less of an excuse, since your mom was my Junior year english teacher. Oh well.

It’s Morrella, not Morella :).

*Originally posted by Bill Gold *
**Hey Jason… at least I’m not the only person to spell your name wrong ;)… then again… I have less of an excuse, since your mom was my Junior year english teacher. Oh well.

It’s Morrella, not Morella :). **

Haaaaaaah. How could I not caught that error earlier?!
/me smack myself in the head.

Oh well, at least I found a good picture for this ;-).

I am afraid to think where FIRST would be without Jason Morrella. It definitely would not be as successful as it is now.

Jason is a great asset to the FIRST community. He has sacrificed much over the years to be a leader, mentor, and friend to many of us. Working hard to better FIRST, Jason is always on the road, on the phone, or meeting with people to try to improve the quality and impact of FIRST.

Jason is an amazing guy. I appreciate his open-minded approach to wrestling pigs, wearing Wildstang croakies, and talking politics. I feel especially good that he associates with conservative, country folk like me.

But seriously, Jason is one of the reasons that many of us stay in FIRST. I always look forward to seeing him at events, as we continually give each other a “hard time”. He is supportive and always respectful to differing opinions, and I appreciate that.

Andy B.

Jason, congratulations… you really are “the man” and definitely deserve this award.

Now, for everyone else, I’d like to share a “Morrella-Moment” that I’ve experienced. Bear with me…

I met Jason at the Cleveland Regional in 2002.
I was the “competition leader” for 229 (the buck stops with me), and so when we ended up seeding 2nd it was my job to pick the alliance (along with Eric, my co-coach). This was the first time I had ever gotten chance to do this, and the first time I would lead/coach an alliance in the finals. It was an eye-opening experience for me, I’d never been “on the top” before, and it was amazing watching everyone try to sell themselves to me. I had people lie, to my face about what their robot could do. We ended up going over to the Cheesy Poofs pit, and started talking to Jason. Jason Morrella took the time to talk to me and Eric, no less than 5 times. We were plagued by indecision, and just kept wandering back to the 254 pit. We didn’t know what we should do. (this was the first time we were “on our own” leading a team.) Jason was so great to work with because of his honesty, and kindness. (Which was amazing to me given the circumstances, think from his point-of-view, we were two “kids” from some team in NY that he’d never heard of. I mean, I watched 254 during the 2001 season, and they were amazing, I was in “hero-worship” mode.)

He is the most profesional mentor/coach I’ve ever met. When we finally decided to pick them, he told us “Hey… we haven’t been working so great… so if we feel our bot isn’t up to the task, we’ll just decline your alliance”. This blew my mind. Having dealt with all those coaches lying about their bots, Jason was like a breath of fresh air. I only hope that if it came down to it, put in that same position, I’d do the same thing.

So after all was said and done, we ended up working with 47, and 254 in the finals. Now, 229 was the “weak” bot in the alliance, and so we ended up sitting for most of the matches. It was hard for me to pull my own bot, but we knew it was the smart thing to do. Jason was not the 254 coach, but he was right there on the backline standing with us. He calmly stood there behind the player station, just chatting with me about how things were going, about FIRST, about strategy. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have been running around in circles screaming from the sheer stress of it. His grace under pressure is something I, to this day, try to emulate. (I tend to fail at it… ask anyone who has ever worked with me… I’m a tad, intense.)

Now, we ended up losing this competition, and of course, Eric and I started getting down about it. Jason, and all the rest of the poofs, just thanked us for a good time. His kind words stayed with me LONG after the regional was over. I would later find out, that Cleveland 2002 was the first regional 254 had EVER lost, their grace in defeat is certainly something others should emulate. (Sorry again Jason… ;)) It was a truly amazing experience, and I consider it one of my fondest FIRST memories.

Jason doesn’t realize exactly how much he’s done for me, and how much I appreciate it. Despite our limited interaction, he has had a profound impact on my time in FIRST, and my life.
I can only say this: Thank you for setting an example for my students, myself, and all of FIRST. You truly are an inspiration to us all.

I urge everyone else to share stories about Jason, and their interactions with him. This is what UFH is all about, show everyone exactly what Jason has done, and why he deserves this honor.


PS - Jason is also the one who took a chance on me and made me a head-ref. So feel free to blame him for any/all bad calls you’ve experienced at my hand! :stuck_out_tongue:

Congrats Jason, you deserve it :wink:

::Tips His hat and toasts his brisk to yah::

Good job man

I am hard-pressed to think of anyone more deserving of this distinction. Over the several years that we have known each other, you have earned my respect, my trust and my friendship.

Woodie Flowers once said “FIRST is completely draining me, pulling all my energy right out - but I can’t give it up. Because it is so overwhelmingly fulfilling to see the impact that FIRST has, and the future that it enables, that it makes the cost of the process worth it.” There are probably only a few people with the depth of understanding and commonality with that statement that you have. You have sacrificed a lot, and endured a lot, to work with this program. But at the same time you have been directly responsible for some truly inspirational results.

A lot of folks know you through the legacy of The Cheesy Poofs, and their amazing winning streaks on the FIRST play field. But I first came to know you through the eyes of Steven, and Sara, and Rosa, and the other students there for the rookie year of Team 254. As I talked with them that first year, and asked what had made the biggest impression on them as they struggled through building their first robot and entering their first competition, every one of them had the same answer: their teacher. As I watched you work, it was blatantly obvious that you ran that team by constantly asking yourself “what is best for the students?” And the result of that approach was a set of students that blew us away, both on the field and off (and had the NASA Administrator in tears, but that is another story…).

Since then, as you have become more involved in the operations of FIRST, you have nurtured many more teams than just 254. You have been caught in the eye of more than one storm over the structure of events, team partcipation, and organizational responsbilities. And yet at every turn, you have always kept just one thought at the center of every discussion: “what is best for the teams?” Your unflagging dedication to the long-term welfare of ALL of the teams has been an inspiration, and a reminder, to those of us fortunate enough to have worked with you.

Congratulations, Jason.


p.s. I hope that you recognize that I will absolutely continue to give you crap at every available opportunity, and just because you won this honor you are in no way absolved of receiving abuse! :smiley:

Congratulations Jason.

When team 691 first started, I remember our advisor raving about how much Jason helped us get settled in and answering any and all of our many questions. One early Sunday morning we even called him house with a shipping problem and he did everything he could to find an answer for us without one complaint that we called his house and he probably was still sleeping (in retrospect, we probably could have waited a few hours…sorry about that).

The West Coast has now been recognized for the utopian atmosphere where there’s the perfect amount of balance for us to learn through competition as well as helping each other out. I believe that Jason has been on of the “founding fathers” of the West coast community, helping to create this energy and environment that truly epitomizes the spirit of FIRST.

I don’t know Mr. Morrella enough to say loads about him, but I do have one experience that showed me how important he is to FIRST.

At SVR, I was in a particularly bad mood since my team was caught in a huge losing streak. After one match where our alliance was left with practically nothing, I lost my grip on everything and proceeded to do something very unsportsmanlike and non-gracious professionalist (no, it wasn’t the finger). Fortunately, Mr. Morrella was RIGHT THERE to see me do this; he pulled me aside and really set my mind back on track.

After this whole incident, I think I really discovered more of what FIRST is all about. Mr. Morrella, I salute you!

Oh yeah, and if he ever gives you a motivational talk and asks what your favorite sport is, DO NOT say fencing :wink:

To the UFH crew - thank you very much for the honor - I am touched and very much appreciate the gesture.

I commend you for having the idea, putting it into action, and making it happen. When I first saw your concept, I was so glad to see John get recognized for all that he has done and continues to do. Then I started thinking of all the other amazing people in FIRST who do so many wonderful things which many people never hear about, and the list of people I would nominate is both long and impressive - so I was a little humbled at being nominated and even held in the same consideration of all the people who are UFH’s around the country (and the world - I don’t want the Canadians to think I’m not aware of all their great accomplishments :slight_smile: )

To those of you who replied, thank you very much for your kind words. I truly appreciate them and they mean a lot to me. In particular:

Amanda & Amanda - thank you. You are each UFH’s. I was wondering where you got the picture, at first I figured maybe it was EJ, then Ken L (another UFH) came forward as the culprit…so I’ll deal with that another time. :wink:

Kevin - the best post of all. I look forward to my box of KK - thank you VERY much.

Bill Gold - thanks for spelling my name right. And thanks for all you have done for Lincoln and the WRRF teams in the Bay Area - any definition of a UFH certainly describes you.

Andy Baker - really can’t say anything about Andy that hasn’t been said. A role model for so many in first - and someone any of us are certainly lucky to be able to call a friend. By the way Andy, you were a “little” bit off with the

I feel especially good that he associates with conservative, country folk like me.

it’s “sympathizes with and prays for”, not “associates with”. :wink:

John V - Another example of how being involved with FIRST allows us to meet and get to know exemplary people we would otherwise never meet. Was so impressed by John the first time I met him, and everything since then has only shown how good my first impression was. Congrats John, you’re a true UFH.

Wake Zero & Stud man - thanks. Wake - I’ve always admired from the sidelines your effort and your teams (64 & 1011), keep up the great work…you should be very proud.

Kristina - thank you very much. Was my privilege and honor to help your team - no worries on the phone call either, was happy to help…but that doesn’t mean Sunday morning calls should become a habit :slight_smile: I hope you have a great experience at UCLA and choose to stay involved in FIRST for many years to come. You are a great role model/spokesperson to help get more young women involved in FIRST.

Dirty Harry - Meeting students like you is one of the great perks in FIRST. You were in a stressful situation and once you had a chance to step back and reflect, you handled it very well. I was very impressed by you and your team. And yes, you did throw me for a loop…I could tell you played sports, and had a few great (I thought) analogies for football, basketball, or baseball all ready…then you throw FENCING at me!?! Not fair - stole my thunder, but I improvised best I could. Anyway, look forward to seeing you and the team in 2004.

Dave Lavery - another example of how being involved with FIRST allows people to meet truly phenomenal people. Knowing people like Dave & Woody, with such credentials (not to mention being the “Director of the Solar System”) is intimidating at first. Then of course you realize that the Director of the Solar System would rather own a Krispy Kreme franchise, so you feel better knowing he’s just a normal guy like the rest of us.
The feeling of respect, trust, and friendship could not be more mutual. When I’ve had any doubts or valleys in the Roller Coaster of FIRST, you and Tony N have always reminded me of all the reasons the success of FIRST is so important.
And thanks for the kind words about 254 (and as you know - no one is more responsible for the great success and impact 254 has made on so many students than Steve Kyramarios). The students and mentors on 254 are the people who inspired and motivated me to help FIRST become accessible to as many students in as many schools as possible…someday every school.
Last - if there IS an honor which can in any way absolve me of receiving abuse, PLEASE let me know what it is…it shall become my quest for the holy grail. :slight_smile:

It’s been a busy summer and awhile since I posted, so I’m sorry about the length…I just wanted to make sure I thanked everyone. So thanks! I look forward to seeing you all (sorry Andy - y’all) in the upcoming season, and hope everyone has a great rest of the summer.


*Originally posted by Jason Morrella *
** I was wondering where you got the picture, at first I figured maybe it was EJ, then Ken L came forward as the culprit…so I’ll deal with that another time. :wink: **

I got two reactions to that comment. Take your pick:

  1. Uh oh NOW I am REALLY afraid… ::shrink to 1" tall and run away screaming::


  1. Uh oh NOW I am REALLY afraid… ::start scheming for the next place to get Jason with a evil smile on face::

Seriously though, Jason, I cannot think of ANYONE ELSE who is more deserving to be an UFH than you. In all the years I’ve been around FIRST, ever since the first time I’ve heard about this “Jason Morrella?” helping us by staying at Moffett Field’s 2000 practice field and let us practice the GRT robot there, I’ve looked up to you as one of the symbols out here in the West Coast that represent the true dedication to education and students.

As people mentioned, your work on the Cheesy Poofs and west coast regionals have impacted so many kids, and you’ve selflessly dedicated your time and energy. But to me, you are so much more.

Ever since the first time I heard you and Ken Krieger talk about FIRST at Manchester’s holiday inn hotel the night before 01’ kickoff, my eyes were opened to the brand new world of FIRST. After that, you’ve always been around whenever I had big urge to do big things in FIRST over here, whether it be volunteering at regional and kickoff, or WRRF stuff.

I don’t want to go into too many details, but here are some snap shots of moments I remembered from the past:

I remember at 01’ kickoff when the coaches went to a restaurant near holiday inn for some food, you introduced me to Andy Baker and other coaches as “here is the kid that post on Chief Delphi”.

I remember jumping around wanting to go down to LA for Chatsworth’s summer classic, and you offered to let me ride with the Poof’s. On the way you asked me, “so why do you want to go so badly?”

I remember toward the end of 02’ we worked together on Cal Games, and at the end of that event you said to the crowd “If Ken Krieger is the volunteer of the year, then Ken Leung is the volunteer of the year in training”.

I remember after 03’ Silicon Valley Regional you said “hey you made me lost a bet. I bet you would’ve cried.”

You know, little things like that I will always remember about FIRST.

So, congratulation on being the second honoree of UFH, right under JVN, who is my FIRST hero :wink: :wink: ;). But if John is my hero, you are the Jedi master I study under. ::bow down to the master::

I hope we can do more work together on future FIRST events :-). See ya around!