2022 Woodie Flowers Award Winner – Christine Sapio

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In this issue of the BEING FIRST Magazine, we want to spotlight the 2022 winners and finalists of the Woodie Flowers Award. Here is an interview we conducted with the 2022 Award winner Christine Sapio from FRC team 2486 CocoNuts from Flagstaff, Arizona.

What are your preferred pronouns?

“She/her/hers please”

What initially made you interested in FIRST?

“That’s actually a really funny story! I student taught at Coconino High School in physics with Dave Thompson, who later became my co-coach for the CocoNuts. He got an email from one of our state representatives about FIRST and came to my classroom and asked, “Hey Christine, do you want to go check out this robot thing?” I always say that “Hey Christine” is the scariest phase ever because what came after that was going to FRC Kickoff (that day!) and starting our team the next year. Being part of FIRST literally changed my life!”

How long have you been a mentor on your team?

“I’ve been a mentor with the ‘Nuts since the team started in 2007. We just finished up our 15th season.”

Why did you choose to mentor your team?

“ “Hey Christine…” 🙂 I decided to mentor because Dave and I went to a Regional and were totally blown away by what we saw – the energy, the excitement the kids had for their robots, the collaboration and GP. It was unlike anything I had ever been a part of and we knew we had to bring this to our school. We were the first FIRST team in Flagstaff, but we’ve worked really hard since then to bring this program to other teams in our town and all over Northern Arizona.”

How do you continue to empower and inspire your students?

“I think what my students would tell you is that I find opportunities to help my students grow beyond the limits that they set for themselves. That might be taking on a challenging volunteer role, or helping them organize their own outreach project, or presenting in front of state or national policy makers, or learning the math or physics needed to make the robot work, even if it seems daunting at first. I believe in letting students be leaders on the team and letting the team be driven by their excitement and vision. For many of my students, the CocoNuts might be the first group to say “you can” to a dream that might seem out of reach due to different circumstances. If a student has a dream or a goal, I don’t give up until I’ve helped them reach it.”

What is your favourite part about your team + FIRST?

“I love the generosity of the CocoNuts. They tirelessly give their time, energy, resources, expertise, and money so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in FIRST. The best part about FIRST is the amazing community. I can go to any event anywhere and find friends, and many of the mentors and graduates of teams from all over the world have become like family to me.”