An Everlasting Hero- Vale Professor Michael Heimlich

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Macquarie University Sydney: Vale Professor Michael Heimlich

James H (Year 12), Assistant Editor-in-Chief

I never got to meet Michael Heimlich, but he profoundly impacted my life, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.  

Mike was a gracious and compassionate man who devoted much of his life to helping others and consequently brought the organisation FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) into Australia, with his wife, Luan. 

Until 2009, Mike lived in America with Luan and his daughters, Sarah and Jaye. He moved for a job at Macquarie University in wireless communications, eventually becoming the longest-serving professor at Macquarie University’s School of Engineering.  

Sarah – who has now gone on to work as an engineer at Google – was particularly interested in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) – a competition for high school students in America where students are given 6 weeks to construct a robot to compete against other robots on a basketball-sized court to complete a certain challenge. In America, FRC is huge, sporting thousands of teams from high schools across the country. Sarah loved FRC and would commit hours of her week to it to construct robots with friends, so naturally, when moving to Australia, Sarah’s only condition was that she would be able to join the local FRC team.  

To the surprise of the family, when they arrived, they found that not only were there no local FRC teams but there were none in Australia at all. In Mike’s commitment to his daughters, he went out of his way to bring FRC to Australia, with the help of his new colleagues at Macquarie University.  

Mike founded FRC Team 3132 – the Thunder Down Under, which competed in New Hampshire in 2010 for the first time and continues to compete to this day. Creating an FRC team is no small feat, it requires a lot of organisation, help from mentors in the community, large amounts of funding, and a lot of space to build the robots. I myself am a member of team 3132 now, and it’s brought me a great deal of joy – a whole community of friends that have become integrated into my life. This wouldn’t have been possible without Mike.  

More on 3132’s first season can be viewed in this documentary on the team:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyX-lK_BVzM&ab_channel=I%2CWombot%3ATheDocumentary 

If you are interested in team 3132, check them out on the following website, or contact me.  

https://www.team3132.com/  

Along with creating team 3132, Mike and Luan went on to find FIRST Australia. This company now works to bring STEM competitions to school-aged kids across Australia, ranging from primary to secondary in three different competitions. Mike went so far out of his way to help other people, being a registered mentor on 23 FRC teams and always helping to run the FIRST Lego League robotics tournaments. Other than bringing FRC to over 50 teams in Australia, FIRST runs the FIRST Lego League (FLL) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competitions. I competed in FLL for 6 years and now mentor 2 teams. It has become embedded in my life, but without the work of Mike and Luan, it would be completely absent from my life.  

Of course, this competition impacts thousands of people across the country. What Mike has done has brought a valuable sense of identity and belonging to so many people like no other could.  

 

Mike sadly passed away in January this year.  

If anything, follow in his generosity and kindness that he brought to so many people. 

Be Like Mike