His students call him dedicated, devoted, a great teacher, caring and patient. When the Thunder is rolling, it is because of Larry Lewis, the 2012 FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Volunteer of the Year.
Lewis ’04 (electrical engineering technology) is one of the reasons the team from Penfield High School rolls and thunders to success in regional and national competitions. He was named Volunteer of the Year at the recent FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional Competition.
Lewis is a lead test engineer at Harris RF Communications, an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets. According to his supervisor at Harris, Thomas Mlodzienski, Lewis is highly respected by his peers, and while he has always made a strong contribution to his work teams, he maintains an even stronger bond to the community through FIRST robotics.
Lewis has been with the Penfield team since its inception in 2004 acting as a professional mentor. He was recognized for his support of the team as it builds its competitive robot and for encouraging the high school students to get involved in activities that not only promote FIRST Robotics concepts of cooperation, sportsmanship and gracious professionalism, but serve the community as well.
When Lewis heard the competition announcer mention Harris RF, a long-time supporter of FIRST programs, during the awards ceremony, he thought one of the many engineers from the company was being recognized for their work. He was surprised when his name was announced as winner of the prestigious award.
“I’m very honored, and I was absolutely shocked; I had no idea,” says Lewis. Although he was not part of a FIRST team when he was growing up in Connecticut, he has immersed himself in the local community of FIRST, primarily in Penfield with his wife, Leann, who is also a Rolling Thunder mentor. It is a community, he says, that has grown considerably since he started volunteering with the group.
His list of accomplishments are many, including helping to organize FIRST Lego League summer camps and participating with the team at the New York State Fair, Penfield Clean Up Day and the United Way’s Make Difference Day. He also helped put FIRST Lego League in the Penfield Elementary Schools and is helping to create a FIRST Robotics Competition team at Monroe No. 1 BOCES for the 2012-2013 academic year.
“Not only are the robots getting more sophisticated, people are becoming more involved. I’ve seen teams that have started out with 10 people that are now 25, 30, 40 people,” Lewis says. “Even though we compete like crazy against each other, we’re always willing to help each other out; we have a common goal of helping these students be successful.”