When I was 9, I was given the incredible opportunity to join one of the first FLL teams at my elementary school. What we lacked in skill and knowledge we made up with a passion and excitement to learn and build. We had fun, and above all we learned how to solve a problem that seemed monumental when we first started. It was all thanks to the local FRC team, Team Paradox 2102. I am now a Junior in high school, and the marketing executive of that same team. I can say without a doubt that I would not be where I am today, and that the team would not be where it is today if it weren’t for Marla Strich.
Marla originally joined the team to support her son. After attending her first regional she realized FRC is more than building robots. It is also teaching and inspiring younger generations to solve problems of tomorrow. She was instrumental in starting the first 8 FLL teams in our area. She worked with the San Dieguito Academy High School Foundation to get a grant from the City of Encinitas to pay for 8 FLL teams. As a School Board Member in the Encinitas Union Elementary School District, and as an active volunteer in the San Dieguito Union High School District, she was able to arrange for four teams at my elementary school, and another four teams at our local middle school.
She has been a Trustee on the Encinitas School Board for over 15 years and uses her position to spread FLL throughout our community. She laid the groundwork and provided the resources for Team 2102 to start 25 FLL teams, mentor over 15, and host 5 consecutive FLL QT’s. However Marla never takes the reins, she always sits back and lets the students do the work that really matters.
Marla has dedicated incredible amounts of time to FLL and Team Paradox, including more than 2000 volunteer hours, being a mentor for 8 years and judging FLL championships at Legoland for the past 4 years. This year she was awarded the “Outstanding Volunteer Award” for many years working as both a volunteer and a judge for Legoland. She knows how important it is to show people the importance of FIRST and STEAM in our world, and there is no other way to do that than inspire the upcoming generations of future engineers, thinkers, and great minds of the future.
Even though her son left our team 5 years ago she has never once considered leaving, because she loves to see the kids get a chance to truly be inspired by something, and truly loves the FIRST program and what it can do for kids. Through her hard work Team Paradox and other teams in our area now have more educated and aware advocates of FIRST on our teams because they went through a well structured FLL program in elementary school. Without Marla our team could not have achieved everything we have today because we would have not had enough skilled and talented students.
Her many years of hard work and unwavering dedication has allowed Team Paradox to reach out, not only to our own members, but to inspire students of any age. She has allowed us to extend FIRST deep into our community and has made it an integral part of our schools. She has motivated me to continue mentoring and inspiring the next generation as she once did for me. This is why Marla Stritch is an ideal Woodie Flowers award recipient.