In Memoriam of Dan Bartels

8 September, 2023

CodeVA joins so many other Richmonders in mourning the passing of Daniel Bartels.

When CodeVA began in 2013, Daniel Bartels was in so many ways our proverbial “Fifth Beatle” for our organization. Not that CodeVA is in any way comparable to the Beatles, but, quite arguably, Dan was comparable to Billy Preston in terms of talent, professionalism and creativity. It also doesn’t hurt that he was, technically (no pun intended for Technical Jed appreciators out there) also a musician par excellence.

All of us at CodeVA who had the pleasure and pain (yeah, he had high expectations!) of working with Dan were sad to learn of his passing this week.

At CodeVA, Dan was integral to so many of CodeVA’s early plans and programs. He helped inspire the DIY attitude – likely a leftover from his days as a touring musician – that is DNA to CodeVA’s success over the past decade.

As CodeVA’s first STEM Integration Specialist, Dan, along with Chris Dovi, CodeVA’s co-founder/executive director, dreamed up a community awareness fundraiser event that would have – had it ever gotten off the ground – entailed dozens of corporate and community-sponsored boxcar racers careening down Fulton Hill to a finish line at the recently opened Stone Brewery facility, with prizes awarded for best design and engineering. Perhaps it’s best the event never happened, avoiding some likely scrapes and a broken bone or two.

Dan’s next idea was more practical. He established CodeVA’s first robotics program and team. That program has grown and evolved over the years since Dan left in 2015 to take a faculty post at Collegiate School, from the state’s first all-city FIRST Robotics team. That team won Rookie of the Year at the 2014 Virginia Regional competition, a strong starter for a program that since has helped start and support many VEX teams across the Richmond region, in addition to providing programming support to FIRST robotics teams statewide.

Through this FIRST team, Dan’s work at CodeVA helped establish our first community partnership, with then-Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones sponsoring the team through the Mayor’s Youth Academy.

Dan was a heart-and-soul kind of guy, and a consummate educator. His commitment to the kids he taught was lifelong – something that was on full display just a few weeks ago when alumni of the Hanover High School FIRST Robotics team Dan started and led for years gathered virtually to meet with, and to thank, their mentor and friend. Dan’s success as a mentor was also on full display. So many of his former robotics and physics students are now leaders in technology, from computing to robotics to advanced manufacturing to – really, the sky seemed to be the limit. Which perhaps best describes Dan. For Dan, the sky really was the limit, especially with computer science, STEM and robotics – and a healthy dose of “your only real limit is you.”

Thanks, Dan Bartels, for the memories, the music and for motivating so many minds – young and old – over the years to explore, test and expand their limits.

To Infinity and Beyond!