When Mr. Ken Morrison came across several academic programs for high school students in 1999, he presented his ideas to the school board to initiate these activities and was fortunately approved. He recruited a few high academic potential students to pilot teams to compete in a variety of competitions, of which FIRST Robotics Competition was included. Auspiciously, these events went so well that he decided to expand the program that fall to include the new FIRST LEGO League. He started six FLL teams that year, and signed up a seventh the following year. On top of being a full time teacher in the vocational wing of our school, he currently mentors four of these teams, coordinates logistics for the seven FLL teams, and serves as the primary mentor and coordinator of our FIRST Robotics team, 306.
You might expect to see someone with such a massive workload bent in exertion, completely overcome with his daily tasks. However, this man is one of the most cheerful, encouraging and thoughtful people you will ever meet. Through persistence and faith in the program, coupled with a seemingly boundless enthusiasm, he emerges as a calm, collected mentor who can always find the time to listen to a technical obstacle or a radical idea. Team members and students who have some odd concept often approach him, and yet no matter how strange it seems, he always seems to have an example to support the idea, or perhaps another direction toward which to aim.
An important methodology that employs is to never answer a question with an answer. Though it may be frustrating sometimes, we are never given our knowledge- but rather, we are gently led into it. By having to work to learn, team members can honestly say that they figured something out every day. A common dialogue heard at meetings consists of:
“How do we do this?”
“Well, what if you did this? This is used on this… Or maybe we could use this…What do you think?”
Perhaps the most important ideal our “chief” holds is that the robot and the team is built by the team. He makes it very clear that the robot is to be built by the students; he is just there to guide us in the right direction. From this attitude, he has directly inspired many alumni to pursue engineering degrees. John Hallberg, a 2003 graduate, recalls,
“Entering the program, I had decided that I wanted to be a welder for the rest of my life. A little while into the year, with some guidance from Ken, I was looking for a college to obtain an engineering degree. I’m now about to receive my ME.”
Generating interest in FIRST is also a big priority for Mr. Morrison. He has used 306 to support first-year regionals such as Pittsburgh, and even sent one of our robots to Annapolis in 2002 to spark the interest of the navel reserve there. He is currently serving as an advisor for FLL teams starting in a local city.
Without Mr. Morrison, team 306 simply would not exist. He continues to enthuse team members every day with his experience and technical knowledge, and a personality that exudes confidence. It is hard to be around him and not learn something. His faithfulness to his students and FIRST is unwavering, even through daunting challenges. Ken is truly a mentor who inspires one to aspire.