Wayne Cokeley

Description from 2006 Woodie Flowers Award Entry

“Wayne Cokeley defines the words ‘teacher’ and ‘mentor’ in ways others can only hope to attain. His infectious enthusiasm and incredible dedication sets an example for all FIRST mentors to emulate.”-Rich Kressly, FIRST Senior Mentor, Mentor of team 1712, and former Mentor of team 103.

Wayne Cokeley. Photo by Lauren Aretakis.

Wayne Cokeley with his Team 25 license plate.

Throughout his decade in FIRST, Wayne has gone to great lengths to promote Team 25 and FIRST Robotics. In his time here, Wayne has gone on to create numerous programs and developed many new teams. Wayne is now the spearhead of RINOS (Rookies In Need of Support), which has created the Pre-Rookie movement and has started close to two-dozen teams. Three of these team’s creations (all of whom were Rookie All-Star Winners at a Regional; 1403, 1048, and 1676), can all be attributed to Wayne, in some way. According to Paul Kloberg, NJ FIRST Senior Mentor, “Wayne continually creates a FIRST Friendly Environment wherever he goes. There is an entire army of FIRST Mentors all over the Mid-Atlantic area resulting from his inspiration. While we would never want to see it…if Woodie ever needed a long break, we have an answer for his replacement in the form of Wayne Cokeley.”

Not only is Wayne responsible for the sterling history of Team 25, he is also recognized across the country as a great teacher and leader. On the popular Robotics forum, Chief Delphi, Wayne was nominated for and received the Unsung FIRST Hero Award. In the nominator’s words, Wayne is “…the spirit behind teams 25 and 1089. Well known on the forums, he is a charismatic leader and a helpful voice. He is very enthusiastic about the FIRST program, and describes his years of involvement as ‘ten going on forever.'”

Wayne has continually gone above and beyond his mentoring duties. Even after being hospitalized for a stroke, Wayne fought his way out of the hospital and attended the NJ Regional in 2004 as a vital decision-maker. Wayne has always put forth to the best of his ability, including the need to develop student’s abilities in all fields. He has pushed his students to learn aspects of marketing, business, engineering, technology, computer applications, and every other aspect of FIRST.

Throughout his ten years of service, Wayne has taught many members the how-to of various types of engineering. Bharat Nain, current Co-Captain and head programmer, brings up a great example. “My sophomore year, I had little experience in engineering. One of my first questions was quite simple. ‘What is a potentiometer (Pot)?’ His response, ‘Whatever you do on one Pot, the other Pot on the robot will make the same exact motion.’ Instead of giving me a complicated reply, he made it a simple process, easy for one to understand.”

According to alumnus mentor and former Team Captain “Big Mike” Schroeder, “Wayne has the uncanny ability to find the talent in a student and show them his or her potential.” Wayne has brought students from all levels of the high school into a cohesive, family-like unit. Through his many puns and euphemisms, or Cokeleyisms if you will, he has enlightened and quite possibly, tormented many students. His ability to stand by his words is mirrored by his humor. In 2000, he made a bet with the students that if they won National Championships, he would shave his hair off. Just a few days later, he honored his bet on Good Morning America.

David Beck, former WFFA and head mentor of Team 103, Cybersonics, expresses Wayne’s dedication and devotion, “He eats and breathes FIRST and redefines ‘Gracious Professionalism’. Besides, no one looks finer in a Hawaiian shirt.”