Every once in a while one comes across a person who influences him in ways that may surprise him; someone who seems like just another person, but turns is extraordinary. A person who becomes not only a mentor but also a teacher, guide, and friend. He leaves a mark that will never be forgotten and will always be recalled to mind at just the right moment for the students of Team 845. In the beginning of the build season, many rookies wondered who that short man with the hat was. Laid back and relaxed, Mr. Proner is a quiet man who usually does not have much to say, but when he does everyone listens. Though his words are few, his meaning is always great.
Every student remembers sitting in an algebra or geometry class and thinking to himself, “I’m never going to use this. What good is this?” Well, Mr. Proner shows the team how much we would need that math. He first presents the problem, and then leaves it up to us to figure out how to find a solution. Then he gets us to figure out all the calculations and shows us how to apply our math skills to a specific problem. Last year, he taught our team how to perform moment and center of mass calculations. This way, when we were proposing a new design or modification, we could determine if it would make the robot turn over. He genuinely cares if we learn something. If we make a mistake, even one that might be detrimental to the progression of the robot, he does not get mad and humiliate us but instead encourages us to try again.
One of the things that makes Mr. Proner so wonderful is that he is willing to dedicate so much time to each person on the team. He always goes the extra mile, promoting engineering and education so that we walk away with much more knowledge than we ever imagined. He takes time out of his life to work with us and teach things beyond our wildest imagination. Mr. Proner has taught each of us that building a robot is not a huge project to be conquered in one leap, but a step by step process that leads to a finished robot.
Last year, our team was initially disheartened because of a difficult season in 2003. Mr. Proner brought a sense of unity and teamwork to our team. He helped us to see that the game was not insurmountable. After brainstorming with the appendage team, Mr. Proner helped us to create two dimensional drawings of everyone’s ideas. He taught us to analyze each idea on its own merit, without bias and without offending our teammates. He helped us synthesize several students’ ideas to create the arm for our 2004 robot, “Sprocket.” Thanks to his ability to teach us to analyze and synthesize ideas, we advanced to the elimination rounds for the first time.
Mr. Proner is a man whose quiet character and almost uncanny understanding makes him such a great man. He has the ability to encourage us to do our absolute best, not because there is a prize, but because of the intrinsic value and self worth we gain after learning what we can accomplish. People like Mr. Proner are like echoes that follow us all our lives. Their voices come back to us, reminding us of the many lessons they taught us. We may forget them for a while, but they will never truly be forgotten. Mr. Proner is building today and influencing tomorrow by himself with us.