2010 Woodie Flowers Award Essay: Mr. Mauri Laitinen

Altruism is the only word that can describe the spirit Mr. Laitinen has shown to the Monta Vista Robotics Team since 2004. As co-founder of AutoDesk armed with 35 years of engineering experience, not only is Mr. Laitinen well qualified to help us, but he is also extremely passionate abut the work he does with us. His dedication to spreading his insight into the vast world of engineering and his fine touch of humor has helped the team countless times advance through thick and thin. His first year as a mentor, Mr. Laitinen took our team under his wing and guided us with his technical expertise in a turbulent time when even a semi-functioning robot seemed unattainable. Throughout his time with us, he has kept faith in everyone on the team and shares his love for technology while teaching us how to meet challenges associated with it.

He has taught us everything from designing to debugging the robot. To help all of us grow and succeed as engineers, Mr. Laitinen often devotes a lot of his time to help us accomplish our goals. Often this dedication is in the form of a three-page email at two in the morning. Other times, it’s a conversation that starts with “So, I went to Home Depot last night…” and ends with showing us useful parts he found that spark our creativity and innovation. Not only does he dedicate his weekends and weekdays to our team, but he also ensures that we learn every step of the way. He encourages us to think about our decisions and the consequences they will lead to. In and out of the season, he stays up countless nights to guide us and ensure that we will be able to reach our full potential.

Even though Mr. Laitinen’s knowledge of engineering stretches far beyond the horizons of our team’s robot, his ability to teach us life lessons and his loving nature is even more astounding. When our team took part in beta testing, one of our tasks was to deliver a presentation on the results of our tests. After every workshop, Mr. Laitinen helped us with evaluating ourselves on our presentations, so that we could improve every time. Mr. Laitinen has also taught us the importance of time management. Without his guidance we would not be able to complete the many deadlines we face each day. Mr. Laitinen never ceases to stress the importance of group effort and cooperation. Even in the last days of build when finishing the robot is our top priority, he ensures that the older members make every task learning experience for the new members. This caring nature of him does not end with our team. With a strong belief in coopertition, Mr. Laitinen goes out of his way to also aid other teams in times of need. Last year, he flew to Texas in his own time to learn about the new controls system, and become a FIRST LabVIEW reference to local teams.

Actions often speak louder than words and Mr. Laitinen’s passion for kindling the flame inside the next generation of engineers shines through his commitment for the team. Because of his selfless actions, he serves as inspiration for the members on our team to do better and go further, producing more and more success stories each day.