Woodie C. Flowers is an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His specialty areas are engineering design and product development, he holds the Pappalardo Professorship and is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow.
He received his B.S. from Louisiana Polytechnic University in 1966, and later an M.S. (1968), M.E. (1970), and a Ph.D. (1972), all from MIT. He was made an Assistant Professor at MIT in 1972 and a professor in 1988.
In 1974, he took over MIT's “Introduction to Design” class (coursebook code: 2.70), in which he gave sophomores a set of random parts such as small motors, wire and tongue depressors. Students were told to build a device that would perform some specific function. Professor Flowers turned the competition into something like a sporting event, with dynamic challenges for the robots. The competition was held in large MIT classrooms and later, gymnasiums. (Many MIT alumni joke that it's the school's version of Homecoming.) The competition was broadcast on PBS’ "Discover The World of Science" throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
He hosted Scientific American Frontiers on PBS from 1990 to the spring of 1993. He was replaced in that role by Alan Alda. Flowers also has the title "Distinguished Partner" at Olin College. He has been the co-founder of and national adviser to the FIRST Robotics Competition since its inception in 1989. Each year, the Woodie Flowers Award is given by FIRST to one mentor for his or her contributions to the students on their team. (Flowers was the first recipient of the award, which began in 1996.)
Flowers is a prominent member of the FIRST Robotics Community and was a member of the Game and Kit Design Committee for the FIRST Robotics Competition (as of 2011 Flowers is no longer a member of the GDC). An award is also named after him. At every regional competition, students write an essay nominating a mentor for the Woodie Flowers Award.
- Cf. Flowers page at MIT
- Stone, Brad (2007). Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports. Simon and Schuster. p. 197. ISBN 9781416587323.
- "FIRST Robotics Competition - Woodie Flowers Award Criteria". FIRST. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "Ceremonia Investidura Grado Honoris Causa Universidad Andrés Bello Dr. Woodie Flowers". 23 October 2007.
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