Winning Woodie Flowers Award Essay 2004 Silicon Valley Regional: Mr. Ted Shinta

Mr. Shinta’s story is about wealth, riches, and accumulating and growing assets.

However, the Mr. Shinta we are talking about has a salary below median earnings. He drives a ten-year-old white pickup truck and lives in a small apartment.

Mr. Shinta works as a teacher’s assistant, but his passion is to mentor the MVRT.

The MVRT consumes over eight hours a day, fifteen on weekends, entirely voluntarily, and requires him to sacrifice himself even beyond the members, mopping the floor for hours after all have left, just so they can finish homework. What meager pay he receives from his school job he opens to the team. We buy parts on his credit, and he only reimburses himself what the team can afford- this year alone, he donated over $2,000, a substantial part of his salary. By all common measures of status- money, time, freedom, Mr. Shinta has sacrificed everything for the team.

But Mr. Shinta is not poor- he is rich. He is rich in education, in experience. He is rich in creativity, in ingenuity. He is rich in compassion, in morality. And most importantly, Mr. Shinta is the greatest embodiment of FIRST the team knows- a model for gracious professionalism and inspiration in engineering.

Rookies, when they first enter the team, feel intimidated and discouraged by the monumental task of building a robot. But Mr. Shinta closes the gap between veteran and rookie through his inspiring lessons and energetic demonstrations. Since Mr. Shinta has joined the team, every robot has featured critical rookie-designed components. The drive train, chassis, and important mechanisms have all been, in one year or another, entrusted to rookie members inspired by Mr. Shinta.

Mr. Shinta’s teachings have extended far beyond the build. Many of his proteges have gone on to become great mentors. For example, under Mr. Shinta’s guidance, Patrick Wang grew from a shy, in-the-corner freshmen, to the designer of an elaborate elevator mechanism his sophomore year, to a renowned team president junior and senior year. Today, he passes on Mr. Shinta’s teachings as a mentor of Kehillah Robotics Team.

Mr. Shinta does not come to work each day for a paycheck, but for the robotics team that loves him. He does not wake up at five in the morning for fun, but to machine parts early so that he can supervise students in the afternoon. He does not drive out to buy falafels at midnight to catch a snack, but because vegetarian members are hungry on days when the team dinner consists of only meat entrees.

Mr. Shinta’s mentoring is also personal. He keeps track of every member’s grades, to insure that they are not falling behind in school during the build period. To help keep their grades up, Mr. Shinta sends members home early so that they can finish their homework. He even tutors them for free.

MVRT is a successful team with a great legacy, full of passionate, accomplished members. But we did not get there alone. There was Mr. Shinta to teach and guide us. Robotics is like art. Mr. Shinta hands us a full set of brushes, a beautiful palette, and a perfectly blank canvas. That is right- Mr. Shinta does not design the robot. He does not dictate the strategy. But Mr. Shinta taught us how to paint.

Again, Mr. Shinta is a rich man. He is rich with the knowledge that he made a difference in the lives of many future engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. He is rich with the warmth and admiration of his team. He is rich in the currency of life- love and happiness.