The list of things that Karthik Kanagasabapathy has done for FIRST is many miles long, but the list of students, parents, mentors, teachers, and others that he has inspired is many, many miles longer. Not only
is he a mentor, he’s a friend, a guidance counselor, and even a big brother. His infectious energy, enthusiasm and passion for this program are always on display.
Over the past ten years that Karthik has been involved in FIRST, he has been instrumental to the spread of FIRST in Canada, and his sheer dedication to the program has never ceased. Karthik is known for helping as many teams as he can throughout the year, as well as being part of the FRC Waterloo Regional Planning Committee. Karthik has been the emcee for both of the Canadian regionals since 2005, and has been called one of the most dynamic and exciting emcees in FIRST. His energy and his immense knowledge of FIRST history, which aids him in his emcee role, involves the spectators as well as the field participants, truly bringing the excitement of a major league sport to the FIRST competitions. He created several presentations on various FIRST concepts that he has presented at the FIRST Robotics Conferences in Atlanta, as well as to local teams. Karthik’s presentations are inspirational and motivating, with every attendee coming out with very valuable knowledge on strategic design and team organization. Karthik is also involved in both the FVC and FLL competitions, volunteering his time this summer to serve on the official Game Design Committee for the FVC, and working at many FLL events. Although Karthik has done immeasurable amounts for the FIRST community, his greatest accomplishments can be seen in the lives of the people he has touched, especially those on his team, 1114.
When Karthik first came to the team, he brought structure, focus, and a vision to the team: aspiring to be the best, not only with the robot, but with the team, and proving that a robotics team doesn’t just build robots. Over the past three years, he has made a point of knowing every single member of the team and their skill sets, and making them all feel included and wanted. Karthik continually inspires us with the way he can make something technical easy to understand, but is not condescending in the process. He doesn’t make it seem as if he’s lowering the concept down for us to understand, but does make us feel as if he’s elevating our level of intelligence to be able to comprehend the idea. We come out of the experience feeling good about ourselves, and confident in our grasp of the concept. Most of his
students don’t even feel as if they are being taught, because Karthik makes everything seem fun.
Several students on our team say that Karthik has been a major influence on their career choices. In 2006, one of the students was considering dropping to a lower math stream. Karthik sat down with him, explained what doors that would close for him, and now the student is in higher math and looking towards university. Almost every student on both 1114 and many other teams have had such moments with Karthik, helping them to realize what they’re truly capable of and inspiring them to pursue options at the full height of their potential.
Karthik may not have an engineering degree, but he is an engineer of people. He has changed so many people’s lives, getting them involved in the program, lending a helping hand to teams when they need it, being a shoulder to lean on for individuals, and being a thoroughly remarkable mentor. As FIRST Senior Mentor Rich Kressly remarked, “[h]is selfless attitude provides a model for all volunteers, not just those within FIRST.” A young boy once told Karthik at a competition that Karthik was his “robot hero.” He says that this has been one of his favourite moments in FIRST. Karthik truly embodies how one person’s passion, especially in FIRST, can make a tremendous impact on everyone he touches.