East West

“True education will remain a human to human activity.” Dr. Woodie Flowers

It is the personal connection that Bruce has with us students at Up-A-Creek Robotics (UACR) that makes him an extraordinary candidate for the Woodie Flowers Award. Bruce has a kind, and soft voice, and guides us through fabricating a part. He leads us, step by step, layer by layer until we have a shining part, fit to be installed on the robot. As the lead fabrication mentor, he makes everyone comfortable and confident in their skills making the machine shop a very popular place.

Bruce makes the shop feel like home. This is easier with some students than others because they may be uncomfortable around the noisy machines. Without his influence some students would pursue a specialty that is less intimidating than fabrication. His calm and certain demeanor makes us comfortable and gives all of us the courage to stretch beyond our comfort zones.

Here is what one student has to say about Bruce’s empathy: “One of the most compassionate acts I’ve seen from a mentor was when Bruce came to visit me at the hospital. For over 20 years Bruce had a favorite stuffed dragon to watch over him. When I became ill, he gave me the dragon to protect me through a hard time. This lifted my spirits when I thought nothing could. His kindness never ceases to amaze us.” Many students consider Bruce like a grandfather because he cares about each of us and makes robotics feel like family.

Bruce chooses to teach fabrication at UACR even though it is what he does all day long at our local community college. He is passionate about connecting with young people. Bruce understands the importance of fundamental skills. When working with students to design our training curriculum, he chose old robot parts that required every machining technique that a student needs to know. He guides us to start simple with a drill press, then as we increase in skill we progress eventually to CNC milling machines. Bruce instituted a sticker chart in the shop that tracks our competencies through 13 different skills. Gold and silver stars cover the chart, motivating us to learn all the skills. He has built an efficient fabrication team that can work accurately and quickly.

Bruce is exactly what a mentor should look like. It may look like he is simply teaching machining, but look deeper and you see that he is building community and setting an example. He demonstrates a willingness to learn. As a mentor who is willing to be taught, he reminds us to be open to learning. Bruce encourages us to speak up, even if it involves correcting him. This not only helps the shop run smoother, but it shows us that everyone makes mistakes and reassures us not to be too critical of ourselves. He urges us to not have regrets but try our best and learn from mistakes.

As Woodie said, “Working with will be more effective than listening to.” Bruce works with us in the spirit of Woodie Flowers.