University staff selected as Volunteers of the Year for FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional

RIT’s Michelle Lanphear and UR’s Elayne Stewart recognized for support for major event




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At the recent FIRST Robotics Regional competition, judge adviser Elayne Stewart, left, and event coordinator Michelle Lanphear were recognized as Volunteers of the Year for their contributions to the planning and logistics of the event.

It takes more than 100 volunteers to coordinate all the logistics—from set up to take down—for the 3,000-plus robotics team members, their mentors, teachers, families and fans who turn out each year for FIRST Robotics competitions in Rochester. Two of those volunteers were recognized at the recent FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional for their ability to manage and coordinate all the “moving parts” that go into accomplishing that feat.

Michelle Lanphear, event logistics coordinator, and Elayne Stewart, judge adviser, were both recognized as Volunteers of the Year at the competition that took place this past weekend at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Gordon Field House. Both are long-time supporters of the annual competition for high school-age students, now in its 10th year as a regional in this area.

“I am blessed and honored to have received this award,” said Lanphear, associate director of conferences and special events, part of RIT’s Government and Community Relations Division. “When I see the excitement and impact that this event has, and continues to make, on these students’ lives, it brings such a sense of joy and internal reward. I love being a part of this event and making FIRST Robotics and RIT well known in our region.”

Lanphear has been with the campus team since 2006. The Henrietta resident has been part of the FIRST regional event planning team for the past three years and coordinates arrangements for catering, concessions, room set-up, site communications and networking, as well as working with the event production team, regional planning committee and the multiple campus departments that contribute to the event including the university’s technical crew, facilities management and public safety personnel.

“Michelle’s attention to detail and to going above and beyond to meet the needs of our partners in FIRST Robotics, as well as the hundreds of students, parents and other family members that are on campus for the competition, are integral to the success of this event and making it an enjoyable and educational experience for everyone,” said Deborah Stendardi, vice president for RIT’s Government and Community Relations division. This group coordinates RIT’s participation in community events such as FIRST Robotics and helps organizations manage events on camps. “We are proud to have her on our special events team, and very appreciative of this well-deserved recognition for her efforts.”

Stewart, a programmer/analyst, Office of the Registrar at the University of Rochester, oversees the judging component of the event that includes screening nominees and selecting the numerous corporate-sponsored team and individual awards.

A resident of Hamlin, Stewart has worked at the University of Rochester for 15 years. She has volunteered at the regional for all of its 10 years. In addition to FIRST Robotics high school competitions, Stewart also participates in judging FIRST Lego League and FIRST Technology Challenge events locally. These latter events are part of FIRST’s robotics competitions, but for younger student-competitors in elementary and middle school.

“Elayne’s commitment to this event is without equal and we are proud of her participation,” said Nancy Specht, registrar at the University of Rochester. “Her dedication to the growth and education of students is well known here at the university. She is a model for those who wish to volunteer in community service in every way.”

Note: A gallery of photos from the March 28 and 29 event at RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center can be viewed at http://people.rit.edu/aswcmp/FIRST_Robotics_2014/. All photos were taken by University News photographer A. Sue Weisler.

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At the recent FIRST Robotics Regional competition, judge adviser Elayne Stewart, left, and event coordinator Michelle Lanphear were recognized as Volunteers of the Year for their contributions to the planning and logistics of the event.