The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant

Woodie Flowers giving thumbs up
Dr. Woodie Claude Flowers, 1943 - 2019

Dr. Woodie Flowers loved FIRST®, and in return was loved by the FIRST community. He was a gifted professor who championed and implemented a hands-on learning philosophy that reshaped engineering and design education.  Woodie, as he was known to FIRST students everywhere, collaborated with Dean Kamen to develop the FIRST® Robotics Competition and was key to establishing the ethos of FIRST by coining the term Gracious Professionalism® and modeling its meaning in his every action. Encouraging all to enjoy a meaningful life, Woodie empowered all people to fully contribute to our world and was amazing at getting us all to work together.  Through a deep partnership with his wife, Margaret, Woodie touched millions of lives around the globe over decades.

Dr. Flowers was Chair of the FIRST Executive Advisory Board, Distinguished Advisor to FIRST, and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was born in Jena, LA shortly after the Great Depression, his mother was an elementary-school teacher who taught him a love and respect of nature and science, and his father was a welder and inventor who instilled in him a passion for tinkering. With few financial options, Woodie did not originally see college as part of his plans. “I was going to get a job in an oil field and buy a Corvette,” he told MIT’s Technology Review. But an attentive high school teacher suggested that he might be able to go to college on a scholarship. Following that advice, he applied for and received a scholarship to Louisiana Tech University. There he met Margaret Weas, a fellow student, who became a lifelong collaborator and colleague in all his academic endeavors. The couple had no children, but Margaret said in  a New York Times interview, “the MIT kids and the FIRST kids were our children.”  Dr. Flowers’ philosophy on design thinking and his learn-by-doing methods influenced generations of his MIT and FIRST “children,” and turned him into something of a celebrity.  Signing Woodie’s shirt was a much sought-after honor at annual FIRST championships.

The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant was established in memory of and to honor Dr. Flowers.

About the Grant

The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant seeks to further the legacy of Dr. Woodie Flowers by providing funding to undergraduate students pursuing a degree in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) field. The grant supports FIRST students who embrace the Woodie adage of “in effort, there is joy” and who work with others to contribute to the world as a Gracious Professional. By selecting students who have excelled in a FIRST program, the grant seeks to honor the legacy of Woodie Flowers by providing a renewable monetary grant to undergraduate students who have, through their leadership in FIRST programs, demonstrated the potential to live a meaningful life.

Description of Grant

The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant will award one (1) initial, renewable grant of $10,000 to a student selected from among the prior year’s FIRST® Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition Dean’s List Award winners. Initial grants are renewable for up to three additional years, provided the student continues to meet the eligibility criteria for the grant. Selection is based on demonstrated gracious professionalism, mentorship and impact on others, academic performance and financial need.

Initial Grant Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for consideration for an initial grant of $10,000 an Applicant must:

  1. Be a 2021 FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST Robotics Competition Dean’s List Award Winner. 
  2. Be a secondary school senior or graduate who has not yet commenced full-time undergraduate studies at a college or university.
  3. Have applied for admission to, an eligible undergraduate program, which means a full-time program in a science, technology, engineering, arts, or math at a college or university that (i) in the United States, is eligible to participate in the federal student financial assistance programs administered by the United States Department of Education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended, or (ii) outside the United States, is demonstrated by the applicant to be similarly accredited.
  4. Have participated as a team member for a minimum of one year on a FIRST® Tech Challenge or FIRST Robotics Competition team.
  5. Complete the Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant application - Open annually October - December 
  6. If requested, participate in an interview (telephone, in person, or online) with The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant Selection Committee.
  7. If selected as a recipient, provide to FIRST a completed IRS form W-9, which can be found here.
We love you woodie

Grant Deferments

If the above renewal and disbursement calendar does not meet the needs of a grant recipient, the recipient may request a deferment from The Woodie Flowers Memorial Grant Selection Committee (the “Committee”) subject to the following conditions:

  • The grant recipient must meet each of the eligibility requirements for a grant renewal at the time of the deferral and at the time of payment of the deferred grant. 
  • For rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the grant recipient must notify the Committee by July 1st of the applicable year:
    • of the need for a deferral of payment of the renewal grant;
    • the requested timing of the grant;
    • why deferment is in the recipient’s best interest; and
    • how the proceeds will be used when disbursed.
  • First year grant recipients, rising freshmen, who would like to defer their first-year grant should provide the above listed information as soon as possible, but no later than July 1st following high school graduation.
  • The recipient must demonstrate that all proceeds of the deferred grants will be utilized for education purposes. The Committee reserves the right to audit the use of grant proceeds at any time. Failure to use proceeds for educational purposes will result in loss of future grants and potential collection efforts to recoup mis-used funds.
  • Final approval of each grant deferment is subject to the absolute discretion of the Committee. 

Renewal Grant Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a renewal grant of $10,000 a recipient of an initial grant must: 

  • Have enrolled in, and continued studies as a full-time student in, an Eligible Undergraduate Program since the initial grant, with high academic performance.
  • Send a letter requesting renewal of the grant and attesting that the student is still enrolled in a full-time Eligible Undergraduate Program together with a copy of the student’s entire transcript from the Eligible Undergraduate Program. Indicating successful completion of courses no later than June 1 to:
  • Annually furnish to FIRST a completed IRS form W-9.
  • Students seeking a renewal grant will be notified of approval no later than July 1st at which time such student must furnish a completed IRS form W-9 to FIRST.
  • Grant money will be sent to selected applicants (who have verified acceptance to, and enrollment in, an Eligible Undergraduate Program and who have furnished to FIRST a completed IRS form W-9), by August 31st.