Woodie Flowers passed away

This is a huge loss for the program and, more importantly, for the world.

Woodie meant a lot to me. He was the “face” of the program that I always resonated with - no theatrics, no ego, nothing but a genuine care for the good that can come from teaching young people how to think. I only managed to chat with him in-person a couple times, but it was always a lovely experience.

I hope the program finds a way to continue to spread his very, very important messages on rationality and clear decision-making. They’re sorely needed.


This is a huge loss for the FIRST community :’( Rest In Peace Dr. Flowers - you will be very missed. Woodie’s values IMO are truly what makes FIRST Unique among the various robotics competitions that exist around the world. Sometimes you think people are immortal - like you just expect them to be there every year, never really consider that they may be gone at some point.

Woodie was one of those people, who I just expected to be there forever, always making amazing, on point speeches about the most important human values that we all need to remember to live up to. In my opinion, Woodie is what made FIRST, First.

Woodie inspired an incredible number of people to not only improve themselves in terms of learning, knowledge, and workmanship, but more importantly, to improve themselves in terms of their humanity. I hope we all carry that with us, in his memory, and create a better, more gracious and respectful world.


Personally, my grad advisor who passed this year shared a number of traits with Woodie Flowers, and so I’m struck by the loss of the good both did with their programs, w,hich are important to me. Particularly in how both strongly shaped each program in a manner that wasn’t forceful or ego-driven, but was a result of their consistent efforts to apply rigorous logic to the problems they saw, but in a way that put the people first. I aspire to emulate their kind, fun, and problem-solving natures in my own life.

I think not about the field. I think it is intended for people of the utmost achievements in STEM, and while I’m sure Woodie would be flattered, I don’t think he probably saw himself in that group. You also have the award named for him, and that I think keeps his legacy in FIRST. On the ground, however, he won’t be replaced for the countless conversations he had with students and the shirt signings. My ideas would be having a Championship display, like the HoF, that brings together his many lessons and talks with something the students can sign. Or start a group of shirt wearers, people from STEM that have some level of achievement that are invited to wear the shirt and talk to students.


Nice article here:


He made the world a better place, and made people better. That is what we can hopefully do with this program. Woodie may be gone, but his influence, his ideals inspired generations of people to make the world better.


I’m just now getting home from a weekend in the mountains with my team at THOR West. I was in the pits when they announced it on the field, sometime around finals.

I’ve been fortunate to see Woodie on many occasions at FIRST events, most recently at Einstein this year in Houston. Whether it was walking through the pits, up at the podium, or walking through the VIP lounge full of supporters, you got the same Woodie Claude Flowers. I know none of this will sink in fully until Kickoff, or probably even Championship.

You know that Woodie’s impact has gone far when even BattleBots is paying homage. Woodie was never a fan of violence, something that allegedly contributed to the 2001 game and its 4v0 concept, but he’s formed the moral compass for hundreds of thousands of us and it’s only natural that quite a few of them filtered over. Even in those pits with sharper, pointier things, you still see that same spirit of Gracious Professionalism in effect.

If we can even live half as well or with half the reach that Woodie did, the world will be a better place for it. But now, it’s on us to do so.


The more I think about this, the more it hurts.

I was awed by the way Woodie inspired students, not just from a technical or vocational perspective, but the unbridled joy his presence, his interest in them, brought to them. There’s never enough people like that in the world, and I feel like adolescence is the time in our lives when that joy and inspiration affects us most profoundly.

Woodie set an example that you want to follow. He showed us as mentors and coaches the kind of leader to be. Even as we bring our own varied personalities and experiences, the core of Gracious Professionalism that Woodie promoted is foundational.

We are privileged to have had him, particularly those of you who knew him, even briefly. Let us celebrate his life as we continue to build, teach, grow, and inspire.


I have been involved in FIRST since 2014. Gracious Professionalism has been engrained in my brain since 5th Grade FLL. They announced it at Bloomfield Girls yesterday and I was so shook I was crying during field reset. Woodie’s impact on my life and the lives of others cannot be measured. Rest In Peace to a true legend.


May he rest in peace. That’s all I can say.

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“The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten.” - Jewish Proverb

Woodie Flowers may no longer be with us, but he will live on in the lives of the people who were inspired by him.


I posted this to my Facebook and thought I should post it here as well.

Three years ago, I had the privilege of being part of a special memory between one of my students, her mom, and this wonderful man named Woodie Flowers. For those who haven’t heard of him, he was one of the visionaries who helped start the program that has changed my life and the lives of many of my students, FIRST Robotics.

On this particular day at the Houston World Championship, he had stopped to visit with us and to meet Madisyn’s mom who was in the final stages of cancer. I can remember her signing his shirt, something that had been signed by countless other people through his years of working with students and his gentle demeanor and genuine love for being right where he was.

Yesterday, Dr. Flowers passed away at the age of 76 and while the whole of FIRST is mourning his passing for a variety of reasons, I will most remember him for this individual act of meeting one of my kids in their time of need and bringing a smile to their face as they met a man who spoke softly but who carried thousands into lives of purpose.

Rest easy, Dr. Flowers. You will be missed.



thanks! (I wrote it)


My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Woodie Flowers.
He was one of the most inspirational influences on today’s young people and will continue to be so thru his FIRST legacy and the real world lessons he taught us all.
As a not so young person, I am inspired every time I think about Dr. Flowers and strive to pass on his message every day when mentoring, at work, and in life.
Rest in peace Woodie Flowers.

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After reading the outpour of heartfelt messages, I was so touched to see Woodie’s impacts reverberate across the globe. The united FIRST community will be drastically different, but I know this is just the beginning and not the end.

I will miss Woodie so dearly, and I’m sure he will miss all of us too.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”


My condolences to Woodie’s family and friends. He may have passed, but his incredible impact isn’t going anywhere soon. I don’t have the words to express just how grateful I am for the impact Woodie has had on my life. FIRST was the first thing in my life I was ever truly passionate about and it has helped me grow so much in so many ways. It takes a truly special person to make such a huge difference to so many people out there and he will be sorely missed.

I deeply regret not taking the time to talk to Woodie at any of the competitions I saw him at. I always assumed I would see him again and could do it another time. Taking the presence of such a uniquely amazing person for granted was a mistake.


A hero to all of us will be missed. I’ve posted a few things on my facebook page about my thoughts.

For those of you with Woodie on your mind and heart, you can check out his 2019 season videos.
Future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si5FZEhjt9k
Utopia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mlh4dXFuGUw
Feelings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl6JkPtDki4
Truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxUspxBCzqM
Ethics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rc1Gbn3oms


Dr. Woodie Flowers was truly one of a kind. A real inspiration and role model for us all. He was a sort of “reverse” celebrity who would collect many more signatures that he would give out. Words cannot describe the excitement students felt when Woodie would take out that cup of colored markers and let students autograph his jacket. But signing and receiving autographs was not his primary mission, it was educating and inspiring students. He would take the time to listen to the students, answer their questions, and ask them questions in return to promote deep levels of thinking and technical understanding, to the point of sketching a design or performing a calculation, right there amidst a crowd. It was such an honor to have the man himself present me the WFFA at the 2015 Ventura Regional competition, and a moment I’ll never forget.


I will truly miss hearing Woodie speak, and seeing his genuine smile. In my opinion he was the heart and soul of FIRST, and his philosophies absolutely shaped the way I compete and what I try to teach my students. It is because of Dr. Flowers that my favorite and most magical moments at FRC competitions are when I can jump in and help a team in need.

Huge loss for all of us.


Woodie is a hero to us all and has been an inspiration for me as mentor, team member and wannabe teacher. I was first influenced by Woodie without really knowing him. I have worked my professional life in Public Broadcasting. I remember working some dull Saturday afternoons in Master Control. We would air optional programming that would come from PBS for member stations to use for fill. One Saturday in the late '70’s, this WGBH feed came down the network showing this crazy competition from MIT. I remember that Woodie’s name was mentioned in these programs as the instructor of the Intro mechanical engineering class. One in particular stood out for me that keeps coming back every kickoff. One of the teams had thought way outside of the box. The game was ping pong balls and there was a table with two sides tilted away from each other. The object was to get and keep as many balls on your side of the table in the alloted time. This one team had configured a net of sorts that would shoot out across the table, grab the majority of the balls, pull them back to the team’s side of the table and hold them there. I knew then if I could ever be part of a competition like that I would not hesitate.
Fast forward to 1997, the first Motorola Midwest Regional https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzu0i25pnys. You can see Woodie as the MC/Announcer in the first few seconds. As I sat there and listened to him and saw him on the field, I thought “I know that guy!” And that started the long trail until this weekend. That WildStang (81 not 111) robot impressed Woodie very much and it is now at FIRST HQ if you get a chance to visit.
Fast forward a few years and Woodie and I often got a chance to stand with each other next to the field at Midwest and other competitions. It was at one such event that were watching a robot get smashed beyond repair by another robot in the finals. The students were in tears in the drivers station knowing their weekend was over. Woodie and I turned to each other and said “We can never let that happen again.” I reminded Woodie of that moment when we found ourselves again standing next to the Einstein Field in Detroit a few short months ago watching some strong competition. He said “you know, I went home and whipped up a prototype in my shop in fifteen or twenty minutes.” Now I know there was a lot of other people who became involved in testing and refining the design, but that is why we have bumpers today. My last memory of Woodie will be forever our conversation in Detroit this year.
Woodie has made me a better person, a better mentor and better Inspector. It is for Woodie that my signature includes “Learn something new everyday!” I know we should celebrate our individual relationship with this wonderful man but I can’t help but grieve the loss of a sometimes friend, advisor, and role model. I am often asked why I write so much on CD and it is because of my desire to be like Woodie and help students understand and succeed. I know that I was given a gift in knowing Woodie and I will continue to be thankful for that gift for as long as I live. Just prior to the picture attached Woodie put his hand on my shoulder and told me “You know Al there is no retirement from FIRST”.

See you later my friend.


That picture.

Dean, Frank, Big Al, Woodie.

We all are gonna hafta step up our game.