East West

For a decade now, Ronald Kunicki has been the secret ingredient in Team 694’s recipe for success. It’s a simple formula: take students with a spark of curiosity, leave them with Ron for four years – and voila! – you have passionate engineers. He is the perfect blend of cheerfulness, enthusiasm and wisdom. An engineering expert, Ron’s contagious fascination for engineering is an integral component of our team’s dynamic. He makes sure that we grow intellectually and as individuals. As one mentor says: “A lot of mentors are interested in making successful robots, but Ron is interested in making successful people.”

Ron manages to make miracles happen on a daily basis, turning even the most mundane of topics into an exciting adventure. Before build season, he noticed an issue in our lab: there was hardware all over the place in no particular order. He then took it upon himself to come up with an innovative, ‘Ron style’ solution and spent an entire meeting teaching us about the history of screws. Amazingly, he not only captivated the audience but, sparked the team’s interest in organizing all the hardware in the lab. Every student left school that day left with a newfound curiosity. 

One of Ron’s mantras is that “half of any robot build is matching the right tool to the right problem”. Ron facilitates this by helping students understand how each tool works and why it works that way. He is always willing to advise them on what tool to use and has the patience to teach them how to use it properly and safely.  Ron is essential in restocking our lab every seasons with new equipment, often purchased with his own money. Simply stated, he loves coming in with new tools for the student to learn to use; often with a grin, saying “you’re gonna love this new toy!”

Ron has the dedication to our team and to the FIRST community that only genuine devotion can foster. He shows up to each and every one of our meetings all year long, often arriving before school lets out so he can be there for us from the moment we set our goals for the day, to the moment he sees them realized. A great success story is of Joanna Zhu, New York Regionals Dean’s List finalist in 2013. Ron helped nurture her love for engineering, and after some encouragement, she not only went on to be the Team President for two years, but she was accepted into the MIT class of 2017 to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. Fittingly, she goes as far as to say, “Ron is pretty much my dad away from my dad.”

There isn’t a single member of StuyPulse who hasn’t benefitted from Ron’s presence. He has guided us through the highs and the lows of many seasons, by demonstrating to us how beautiful the world of engineering is and how amazing it is to be part of it. Ron’s commitment to the students of Team 694 and his passion for our team shows that he has truly embodied the spirit and message of FIRST. We cannot think of a finer individual to represent the ideals of our team as a Woodie Flowers Award nominee.