Woodie Flowers

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Woodie Flowers
Flowers gives his signature thumbs up at the 2006 FIRST Championship in Atlanta, Georgia
Woodie Claude Flowers

(1943-11-18)November 18, 1943
DiedOctober 11, 2019(2019-10-11) (aged 75)
Alma materLouisiana Tech University (B.S., 1966)
MIT (M.S., 1968), M.E. (1971), Ph.D. (1973)
Scientific career
FieldsMechanical engineering
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Flowers speaking at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C.

Woodie Claude Flowers (November 18, 1943 – October 11, 2019) was a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked on engineering design and product development. He also held the Pappalardo Professorship and was a MacVicar Faculty Fellow.[1][2]

Biography[change | change source]

Flowers was born in Jena, Louisiana on November 18, 1943.[3][4] He was named after his grandfathers Woodie and Claude.[5] His father, Abe Flowers, was a welder and inventor. His mother, Bertie Graham, was an elementary-school and special education teacher.[6] As a boy, he showed mechanical aptitude like his father, Abe, and he earned the rank of Eagle Scout.[3] When he was seventeen, he and four friends were driving on Louisiana Highway 127 when they were hit head-on by another vehicle that was traveling at about 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). The accident killed two people in Flowers' vehicle and one in the other. It made him believe what he called "genetic opposition to violence" and created his "fierce, vocal loathing of any spectacle that involves crashing pieces of machinery into each other with deliberate force."[7]

Flowers went to Louisiana Polytechnic Institute and graduated with his B.S. in 1966.[1][7] He then went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning his M.S. (1968), M.E. (1971), and Ph.D. (1973) under the direction of Bob Mann.[1][8][7] His thesis, called "A man-interactive simulator system for above-knee prosthetics studies," was on a robot-like prosthetic knee inspired by Mann's Boston Arm.[9][10][a]

After receiving his doctorate (Ph.D.), Flowers began as an assistant professor at MIT. He worked with Herb Richardson on the "Introduction to Design and Manufacturing" class.[10][8] Known by its course number as 2.70 (now 2.007), the class had a design competition to build robotic devices to accomplish a challenge.[8][11] Flowers took over the class in 1974, changing it into one of the most popular classes at MIT.[8][12] He changed the challenge every year, always trying to make it more complex and exciting.[10] The competition was shown on TV several years on the PBS show Discover the World of Science.[13] The competition became like a sporting event, and was even jokingly referred to as MIT's true homecoming game.[14] In 1987, Flowers handed the class over to Harry West.[15]

Discover the World of Science changed its name to Scientific American Frontiers in 1990, and Flowers served as its host[16] until 1993 when he was replaced by Alan Alda.[17] In 1990, Flowers began working with Dean Kamen on FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a project to promote science and technology.[18] Taking parts from 2.70, they created the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in 1992.[19][20] Flowers brought the phrase "gracious professionalism" to FIRST, an idea which has since become very important in FIRST rules and culture.[21] Flowers served every year as National Advisor to FIRST.[22] He was active at FIRST events, working as an MC and treated along with Kamen "like heroes."[21]

At the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship, Woodie Flowers was inducted into the STEM Hall of Fame.[23]

Flowers was a "Distinguished Partner" at Olin College, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[24] In 2007, he received a degree honoris causa from Chilean university Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello.[25] He died on October 11, 2019, in Massachusetts following complications from aorta surgery.[4][26]

FRC Woodie Flowers Award[change | change source]

In 1996, the FIRST Robotics Competition created the Woodie Flowers award, which was given to Flowers that year.[1] In years since, the award has served as a way for FRC teams to honor adult mentors. At each FRC regional competition a Woodie Flowers Finalist Award is presented to one adult who was nominated. This qualifies them for the Championship Woodie Flowers Award (WFA) presented at the FIRST Championship.[27]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. A video about the Boston Arm is available from MIT: link

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Woodie C. Flowers". MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering. Archived from the original on July 21, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  2. "Professsor Emeritus Woodie Flowers dies at 75". MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering. Archived from the original on October 14, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stone 2007, p. 192.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rufkin, Glenn (October 24, 2019). "Woodie Flowers, Who Made Science a Competitive Sport, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  5. Cullinane, Maeve. "Afterhours with Woodie Flowers". The Tech. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  6. Marquard, Brian (October 23, 2019). "Woodie Flowers, MIT robotics guru who championed 'gracious professionalism,' dies at 75 - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Archived from the original on 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Stone 2007, p. 193.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Chandler, David L. (May 7, 2012). "Woodie Flowers, a pioneer of hands-on engineering education". MIT News. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  9. Flowers, Woodie Claude. "A man-interactive simulator system for above-knee prosthetics studies" (PDF). MIT. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Stone 2007, p. 194.
  11. Stone 2007, pp. 188–189.
  12. Stone 2007, pp. 194–195.
  13. Stone 2007, pp. 195–196.
  14. Stone 2007, p. 195.
  15. Stone 2007, p. 196.
  16. "Woodie Flowers, on season 1". PBS. Scientific American Frontiers. Chedd-Angier Production Company. 1990–1991. Archived from the original on 2006. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |archivedate= (help)
  17. Stone 2007, p. 197.
  18. Stone 2007, pp. 203–204.
  19. Stone 2007, pp. 204–205.
  20. Cullinane, Maeve. "Afterhours with Woodie Flowers". The Tech. Archived from the original on 2019-09-18. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Stone 2007, p. 207.
  22. "Dr. Woodie Flowers". FIRST. 27 July 2015. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  23. Dr. Woodie Flowers - STEM Hall of Fame Induction 2017. YouTube. VEX Robotics. May 15, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  24. "Woodie Flowers, Ph.D". Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  25. "Ceremonia Investidura Grado Honoris Causa Universidad Andrés Bello Dr. Woodie Flowers" (PDF). October 23, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  26. "A Message about Dr. Woodie Flowers". FIRSTInspires. 12 October 2019. Archived from the original on 12 October 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  27. "Submitted Awards". www.firstinspires.org. 19 April 2018. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.

Works cited[change | change source]

  • Stone, Brad (2007). Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-8732-3.

Other websites[change | change source]