Michael Vilarelle’s admiration for FIRST and engineering has always filled us with enthusiasm for technology. Mike’s undying drive to push his team full steam ahead regardless of a conflicting work schedule, or even a near death experience truly inspires us.
Mike goes beyond the basic duties of a mentor to Team 333. He started his FRC career in 2001 as a junior on team 354. He quickly became the driver and captain of the team. Mike’s love for robotics led him to become a mentor to 354 from 2003-2013, respectively, before coming to team 333 the same year. With 13 consecutive years in FRC, Mike had his share of wins and losses coming into his new team. The complete dynamic of team 333 was changed with the overflowing knowledge Mike walked through the door with. He was welcomed immediately by our Lead Advisor, Filippo Dispenza and to no surprise, all of the teammates. Before his arrival, 333 didn't have enough mechanical support and struggled greatly. The program needed more than one leader, it needed Mike.
Impressions of Mike can be seen all over our workshop. In his first year, he taught new students the basics, such as inking and scribing aluminum to learning how to operate the many functions of a mill and lathe. In his four years on the team, he has turned students into mini mentors who are able to confidently teach their skills as veterans to the newcomers. Mike shared his expertise in heavy machinery and engineering in which we automatically adopted and incorporated into our workshop. With each new challenge given out by FIRST, Mike strongly emphasized the importance of using the lingo. From the “TRUSS” in 2014 to the “BOILER” in 2017, we could only refer to game elements by their proper names. We were to know every inch of the manual especially all the game and robot rules. This enabled us to become fully immersed in the game ahead and it was left up to the students to brainstorm strategy using Mike’s extensive knowledge of FIRST to aid us in designing a robot tailored to play the game.
Mike pushed through the time constraints given by his job in order to be with his team as much as possible during the build season. Even at competitions, he never fails to accompany us - despite a peanut allergy incident which sent him to the hospital during the Tech Valley Regional in 2016. After receiving emergency treatment, he walked right back into the regional ready to lead us once again. Mike has truly made team 333 a family, and many of us have come to love growing up with him during our 4 years on the team. His radiating love of FIRST taught us all to love technology and unity especially in our ever expanding diverse team of students and mentors. Seventeen solid years in the world of FIRST has proven to shape our ever evolving and opinionated mentor, Michael Vilarelle.