Founder of the United Robotics of Lacombe (URL) Warren Kreway recently received the prestigious Woody Flowers Award at the Canadian Rockies Regional in Calgary.
The award is handed out by First Technology, Boeing and NASA to show recognition to mentors in the field of robotics and Kreway is one of five Canadians who have received the award.
Kreway will now travel to Houston, TX for the World Championships, where an opportunity to be a world mentor is on the line.
Kreway won the award due to a URL student, Derek Lange, who wrote a nomination that initially was four pages before being trimmed down to 3,000 words.
“He is an invested mentor at URL and in our school, as well as in the Blackfalds Elementary School,” Lange wrote.
“He has shown his determination to help the school implement our FLL program. Warren drives himself and URL members to Blackfalds to mentor, help teach the students about FLL and to ignite the dream in this school full of bright and enthusiastic learners.”
Kreway, who has been involved with URL for 14 years, said he is humbled by the award and the nomination letter wrote by Lange.
“The biggest joy that I had was building a family with these young men and women,” Kreway said.
“It made a real difference in their lives. At the high school age, they are often struggling with life. That is why I stepped in and tried to help them look at life a little differently.
“Now it is coming back to me.”
Kreway added the inspiration has gone both ways after the students encouraged him to finish high school back in 2014.
“When we went to St. Louis, I shared with our robotics team at the hotel that I never finished,” Kreway said.
“It took a lot of courage to finally admit that. It dawned on me that one of the things I needed to do was finish school and I did back in 2014. Now I am an educational assistant working with special needs kids in Blackfalds and Lacombe. I drive a school bus and I have also started a foundation.”
His foundation, Africanian, is the result of a trip Kreway made to Uganda many years ago where he met 26 orphaned children.
The program helps students in Canada develop connections with African schools through such means as becoming sister schools, for example.
Kreway will meet with a friend he made in Uganda in 1988 during his trip to Houston.
“I am going to Houston for a purpose, but I also get to live another part of my dream,” he said.
Kreway said it is important to him to have his students be involved with his trip and that him winning the Woody Flowers Award was really about everyone in URL.
“Winning the award was very meaningful,” Kreway said.
“For 14 years I have wondered what impact I have had on these kids, and that says it all right there. They were excited when they presented me with the award in Calgary at the competition.
“The kids were exploding on the bleachers and were excited to be part of something very important.”
During the regionals, URL’s robot was not functioning properly unfortunately but that did not dampen the team’s spirits, according to Kreway.
“We struggled with it but winning the award brought them alive. It shows me and them that even with struggles, you can still get there. You just have to find a way. My role in that is just to inspire them and encourage them to dig deeper and push harder.”
Lange, who graduates this year, invited Kreway to his grad in Ponoka and Kreway said their relationship has developed into a grandfather/grandson relationship.
Kreway hopes that Lange or one of the other URL students can take over the program from him one day.
“He is an exemplary young man. He is going to do very well,” Kreway said. “I was asked by the Superintendent Jason Lovell where I thought the project was going in five years, because I am almost 70. I said that I hope a young man or a young woman will pick it up, see the dream and want to run with it. That is really motivating for me that they see this, because sooner or later I will have to hand over the reins.”
He added the key element of the URL program is make a better world by connecting students.
“I hope that this will still be in play, that they still will be mentoring robotics teams and they will be travelling around the world connecting children with other children. That is the crux of the whole thing. To make a better world, we need to connect.”