Who’s Who at first

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June 2011

New Faces at FIRST  

FIRST Headquarters Staff

Christina D’Auria, Operations Coordinator

Three days after joining FIRST, Operations Coordinator Christina D’Auria hit the ground running at the FIRST Championship in St. Louis. Christina graduated from Endicott College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and Contemporary Journalism. She is currently attending Southern New Hampshire University, where she is working toward her Master’s Degree in Secondary English Education.

Christina enjoys working at FIRST where she is inspired every day by our future engineering and technology leaders. 
Andrea Jennings, Software Systems Analyst

Originally from northeast England, Andrea Jennings traveled to the U.S. at 19 years old and has been here ever since. Andrea was a competitive gymnast and swimmer growing up and competed internationally. She aspired at one time to become an attorney and has a Criminal Justice degree, graduating with Summa Cum Laude honors. She turned to Sales and Marketing, but always seemed to become involved in the way business flowed, the processes of business, streamlining and investigating, and determining how to do things more efficiently, eventually leading to her current career path.

Andrea was recently hired as Software Systems Analyst for FIRST. She is proud to be part of the IT Department and feels fortunate to work with people who are friendly, kind, hardworking, and passionate about what they do.

Amanda Maloney, Human Resources Assistant

Drawn to FIRST by her desire to work in the HR department of an interesting company, Amanda Maloney joined the organization in May, 2011 as the HR Assistant. Amanda was born in Canaan, New Hampshire and attended Plymouth State University, graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications studies, paired with an Associate’s degree in Graphics. After graduating college, she worked for Verizon Wireless as a customer care representative. During this time, Amanda realized how much she loved working with others, and how much she wanted to expand upon her knowledge of Human Resource management.

In her spare time, Amanda enjoys watching movies, going to the beach, creating artwork, and playing poker. Amanda is also an avid movie and panda collector.

Jennifer McManus, A/P Specialist

Jennifer joined FIRST in March as an Accounts Payable Specialist in the Finance department. Jennifer previously worked at Daniels Equipment Company in Auburn, NH handling all aspects of accounts payable, as well as some duties in purchasing, customer service, and shipping & receiving. Prior to that, she was a Department Manager and Sales Floor Rep for Target. Her love of numbers prompted her to work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, which she expects to complete in October, 2011.

“I like working in the positive atmosphere that FIRST offers,” said Jennifer. “It feels as if everyone who works here loves what they do.”

In her free time, Jennifer enjoys reading, hiking, movies and helping her parents on their small farm when needed.

September, 2011

New Faces at FIRST

FIRST is pleased to welcome the following new members of the FIRST Community:

FIRST Headquarters Staff

Nancy Boyer, Evaluations Manager

Nancy Boyer joined FIRST in July, 2011, as the Evaluation Manager for Development. Nancy is very excited to take this next step in her non-profit career. Before coming to FIRST, Nancy spent nine years at The Children’s Place and Parent Education Center. She served on their Board of Directors for several years, later becoming their Director of Program Development. Nancy also teaches students in the School of Social Work at Boston University. She has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Work from Boston University.

Nancy enjoys spending her free time with her two children and her husband, Brian. She loves to run, and especially enjoys participating in road races from 5Ks to half marathons. Nancy volunteers her time coordinating the Pan Mass Challenge Kids Ride where children ages 2 to 12 ride their bikes to raise funds for the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

John Grabowski, Network Engineer

John Grabowski became a member of the IT team at FIRST in August 2011 after working as a contracted employee since April. John enjoys the great working environment at FIRST, and working with enthusiastic people who are dedicated to bringing science and technology to young people. He is looking forward to the challenge of improving the data infrastructure at FIRST.

John has had a variety of careers: machinist, toolmaker, NC programmer, tool and product designer, and of course, all around computer geek. As a mechanically minded individual, working for an organization that promotes science and technology is very exciting for John. Over the past few years, he owned and operated Cadmetrix and worked support and implementation for VantiCore, an IT services vendor.

When not at work, John spends his time with his wife, Debra, at their home in Raymond, New Hampshire. Debra and John enjoy grilling and entertaining for their family and friends at home.

Timm Huffman, FIRST Tech Challenge Program Coordinator   

Timm Huffman joined FIRST in August 2011, as the new FTC Program Coordinator. Timm was drawn to FIRST because of his desire to help others, and because of his belief in the mission of the organization.

Timm attended the University of New Hampshire Manchester and graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. He also holds an Associate’s degree in Communication Science from the Community College of the Air Force.

Timm is a Technical Sergeant in the Air Force Reserve and drills out of Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts one weekend a month. In his military capacity, Timm works as a public affairs specialist. Prior to coming to FIRST, Timm spent six years working in various capacities at the Easter Seals New Hampshire youth residence and schools in Manchester, New Hampshire.

In his off time, Timm enjoys long-distance running and hiking. He also has a passion for film making and photography.

Michelle Long, Administrative Assistant, Field Operations

Michelle Long joined FIRST in August 2011 as the new Assistant for Field Operations and Volunteer Resources. Michelle was drawn to working at FIRST because of her love of education and passion for getting young adults involved in technology. Michelle graduated from Hillsdale College in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in technical theater with a specialization in lighting design and programming. After graduating college, Michelle ventured into the non-profit world at North Shore Music Theater, where she was the in-house lighting programmer and operator. After leaving North Shore, she worked in higher education administration before realizing that FIRST could combine both of her passions!

In her spare time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband, playing video games, and reading.

Amy Lyle, Operations Coordinator

Amy Lyle joined FIRST in August of 2011 as an Operations Coordinator. She was intrigued by the mission and values of the organization.

Amy was born and raised in Contoocook, New Hampshire. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire Durham with her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She aspires to return to UNH to earn her Master’s degree someday.

Prior to her arrival at FIRST, Amy worked for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. She has always had an interest in working in the non-profit sector.

In her spare time, Amy enjoys reading, painting, kayaking, and hiking.

Kristen MacCulloch, Junior FIRST LEGO League Program Coordinator

Kristen MacCulloch joined FIRST in August 2011 as a Junior FIRST LEGO League Program Coordinator. She is excited to join such a great team and looks forward to the challenge of this new position. A New Hampshire native, Kristen received her BA in Communication Arts from the University of New Hampshire in 2006 and recently achieved her Six Sigma Yellow belt certification.

After graduating college, Kristen worked as a Customer Service Rep for Jetboil Inc., then as a Customer Relationship Specialist for Velcro USA.

In her free time, Kristen enjoys hiking, playing softball, and spending as much time as possible with her husband, Drew, and son, Bennett.

Kevin O’Connor, FIRST Robotics Competition Engineer

Kevin O'Connor joined FIRST in September 2011 as an FRC Engineer. Kevin was attracted to working at FIRST due to his long history with the organization as a participant and Volunteer. Kevin was born in Portland, Maine.

Kevin attended the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduating college, Kevin worked for GeckoSystems Intl. Corp. as an EE Roboticist. This position solidified Kevin's interest in the field of robotics.

In his spare time, Kevin enjoys watching and playing sports, hiking, and movies.

Ashley Sleath, Operations Coordinator   

Ashley Sleath graduated from Plymouth State University in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and recently joined FIRST as an Operations Coordinator.

She was selected to be a part of Reebok International’s Post-graduate Apprenticeship program for one year, working with the Design team as well as Operations team.

In her free time she enjoys reading, outdoor activities, going to Broadway shows, antiquing, movies, and volunteer work.

Lisa Vincent, Senior Grants Writer

Lisa Vincent joined FIRST in August, 2011 as the senior grants writer. Prior to working at FIRST, Lisa was the Development Director for New Generation, Inc., a small homeless shelter for pregnant women and their babies. Lisa began her fundraising career as a Major & Planned Giving Assistant at New Hampshire Public Television.

Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Southern New Hampshire University in 2004 with a degree in Communications. She currently resides in Newmarket, NH with her husband, Ray, and four of her five children.

New Faces in the Field…

Regional Directors… work collaboratively to create and maintain Volunteer driven, self-sustaining, and growing FIRST programs in a named geographic area. 

Rhonda Christen, Assistant Regional Director - Louisiana
Rhonda Christen joined the Field Operations team in July as the Assistant Regional Director for Louisiana. Rhonda has been involved with FIRST in the Bayou region since 2008, through her work at ITT Technical Institute. Rhonda holds degrees in Drafting and Design from ITT Technical Institute and Health Vocation/Medical Technician from Eastern College in Louisiana.

Sandra Contreras, Assistant Regional Director - Southern Florida
Sandra Contreras joined the Field Operations team in July as the Assistant Regional Director for the Southern Florida area. Sandra holds a BS Industrial and Systems Engineering from Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, in Mexico and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Sandra became involved with FIRST as a Mentor/Coach in the Junior FIRST LEGO League. She brings with her a diverse background in business and technology. Currently Sandra serves as the Director of Business Development for Mass Hispanic Marketing in Miami.

Dan Green, Regional Director - Illinois

Dan Green joined the Field Operations team in July as the Regional Director for Illinois. Dan has been involved with Illinois FIRST since 1996, serving as a team leader and Mentor. He received the National Woodie Flowers Award in 2007 and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Mid-West Regional. Dan holds his BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois and his MBA from the University of Chicago. He has long worked in the telecommunications industry with Motorola Inc., and is the Chief Operating Officer and Acting Chief Technology Officer of The Learning Guide Network, Inc. (an online directory of Learning Providers and Learning Events).

Meredith Novak, Assistant Regional Director - Arkansas

Meredith Novak has been a FIRST fanatic, Volunteer, and true believer since attending an FLL tournament 10 years ago. She is an FRC Hall of Fame Team 16 Mentor, the FLL Operational Partner, and FTC Affiliate Partner for Arkansas. She has served as an FRC and FLL competition judge and Volunteer and FLL Coach. She is a member of the 2012 FLL Challenge Advisory Team.

An Arkansas native and graduate of Hendrix College, Meredith was a Hendrix Merit Award Recipient and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Distinction in Economics and Business. Her professional experience includes technical writing and editing, financial and utility analysis and consulting, as well as non-profit and tax accounting.

Meredith lives in Mountain Home, Arkansas with her family. Her children are all FIRST students/Alumni and her husband, John Novak, is a 17-year FIRST Volunteer and the 2009 Championship Woodie Flowers Award winner.

Theresa (Terri) Willingham, Assistant Regional Director - Central Florida

Teri Willingham joined the Field Operations team in July as the Assistant Regional Director for the Central Florida area. Terri has been involved with FIRST through the FIRST Tech Challenge since 2008. She is a professional writer by trade and is also the President and Founder of Learning is For Everyone, Inc. (a non–profit education resource organization). Terri holds a degree in English and Journalism from Florida International University and is a member of The Author’s Guild.

Senior Mentors… work on the ground in a hands-on environment in support of the family of FIRST programs; recruiting, supporting, and sustaining teams, Mentors, Coaches, and Volunteers in their region.

Teri Benart-Abrahamzon, Senior Mentor - California
Teri Benart has 20+ years of experience in the Information Technology field. She has performed both hardware and software requirements, architecture, design, engineering, and project management. She has managed large global projects and budgets as part of her role in IT. Teri was introduced to FIRST three years ago by her son and has been mentoring Team 2085 from Vacaville, California since then. She has also participated in FIRST as a judge for both FLL and FRC in the northern California Region and at Championships for FRC this year. She serves on the Regional Planning Committee for the Sacramento Regional and is the Regional Planning Committee Chair for 2012.

Tara Bowen-Biggs, Senior Mentor - Oregon

Tara Bowen-Biggs has been a communications professional for local government for six years as well as a preschool teacher and parent. She has been a Coach and Volunteer for FLL, FTC, and FRC teams and events as well as coordinator for Benson Polytechnic High School’s robotics club. As a “govie,” she has been involved in community building and economic development as well as projects encouraging youth to become involved in their local communities. Tara helped develop and implement Multnomah County, Oregon’s social media policy and programs and has received recognition for innovative communications strategies utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and video. She loves the challenge of breaking down complicated issues and programs and explaining them in interesting and engaging ways. She is committed to encouraging all young people to pursue their interests with passion and zeal and is committed to introducing the potential in business, education, and community leadership to motivated youth.

Vicki Coaty, Senior Mentor - Minnesota
Vicki Coaty has a tremendous amount of organizational and leadership skills gained from her past professional career in advertising and her vast Volunteer experiences in her community and schools. As a Senior Traffic Manager at Colle & McVoy Marketing Communications, Vicki was often responsible for more than 75 projects at a time, ensuring that all projects were completed accurately and in a timely manner.

For the past 14 years she has served her community and schools, taking on a multitude of leadership roles. These roles have included president/chairperson, fundraising coordinator, volunteer director, and program coordinator. She has served on a number of committees for the Robbinsdale Area School District as well as individual schools. Vicki also has extensive experience in FIRST LEGO League, volunteering and supporting the Minnesota Chapter for over a decade as a Coach, Mentor, tournament director, referee, and judge.

Steve Florence, Senior Mentor - Indiana

Steve Florence has been a technology teacher for 36 years and is currently employed by the West Lafayette Community School Corporation. He has been involved with FIRST for 12 years as a Lead Mentor for Team 461 “Westside Boiler Invasion,” and he is also involved with FLL and FTC. In addition, he is a charter member for the Boilermaker Regional Planning Committee. With his leadership and dedication he has helped develop a college-based student Mentor program at Purdue University; Purdue FIRST Programs. Over the past 10 years, Steve has developed and presented at numerous FLL, FTC, and FRC workshops designed to help educators, parents, students, and professionals participate in all FIRST programs. He has been honored throughout his teaching career for excellence in teaching and his awards include Indiana Technology Teacher of the Year and a Regional Woodie Flowers Award in 2006.

Dana Henry, Senor Mentor - Massachusetts

Dana Henry has worked for United Technologies business unit, Hamilton Sundstrand/Space Systems for 29 years, building various life support systems for NASA and the U.S. Navy, including the EMU (extravehicular mobility unit, “the space suit”), oxygen generation, life support, cooling and gas management systems for the NASA Space Shuttle, International Space Station and U.S. Navy submarines. In 2002, Dana co-founded FRC Team 839 “Rosie Robotics,” and in 2005 co-founded FTC Team 839 with the late John Burns. Since then, Dana has expanded FIRST to all schools in all grade levels in Agawam, Massachusetts, founded the Agawam Robotics Education Association, Inc. a 501(c)(3) and currently serves as President. He has organized FLL state Qualifying Tournaments for three years and has been a FRC Championship Inspector for seven years. Henry has also presented various training modules at Kickoff in Manchester, on rookie FRC/FTC/FLL team formulation, veteran team sustainability, and how to shape local politics for the support of FIRST.

Michael Klanica, Senior Mentor - Pittsburgh

Michael Klanica was introduced to FIRST in 2005, and became a FRC team Mentor in 2007. After transferring schools to be closer to home for the birth and adoption of his son, Brady, in 2008, Michael introduced competitive robotics to his new school and formed FRC Team 3062, “Spartan Robotics.” This team went on to capture the Highest Rookie Seed and Rookie All-Star awards that season, and even earned a spot at the Championship event in Atlanta. He continued the FIRST mission for two more years before leaving the teaching profession after the 2010/2011 school year to return to computer programming.

Michael’s pre-FIRST experiences consisted of two tours of duty with IUP, resulting in Bachelor’s degrees in Applied Mathematics/Applied Computer Science and Secondary Mathematics Education.

Heidi Lovett, Senior Mentor - Washington

Heidi Lovett has worked extensively with students as a homeschooling parent, scout leader, Coach, and Mentor. Heidi is passionate about FIRST and has witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has on students, Mentors, parents, schools, and professionals. She has more than five years of experience with three of the FIRST programs – two years as Coach for FLL, three years as lead Mentor for FTC, and one season with FRC. In addition she has worked with a Jr.FLL team and a collegiate team.

Joshua Mauro, Senior Mentor - Nevada

Joshua Mauro has extensive experience with FIRST. Being a part of FRC Team 987 “The High Rollers” in Las Vegas, he knows the ins and outs of the FRC competition from the build season to the Championship. He served as president of Team 987 for two years and was a member for three years. The High Rollers also host an annual FLL competition, where Joshua serves as a referee. Mauro also has experience with FTC. Being recommended to serve as a FIRST Senior Mentor by the Nevada FIRST Regional Director, Jean Hoppert, has been a great honor for him and he is very excited to get back into the FIRST family.

Tim Rich, Senior Mentor - Tennessee

Tim Rich initially became involved with FIRST in the autumn of 2008 when his daughter joined her high-school FRC team. This was the team’s second season, and Tim has been involved in helping them grow over the past three years. Tim has served as a parent Mentor, helping kids with a wide variety of activities, including fundraising, marketing, interpretation of rules, web site development, developing team facilities, picking up the kits, build season, practice field mock-ups, pit structures, attending multiple competitions, Chairman’s Award submission, travel, food (and eating), and the like. Tim’s professional background includes over four years in business process project management (which is primarily related to Information Technology), as well as 17+ years in Human Resources, which entails leadership development, training, union issues, corrective action, recruiting, and hiring.

Mary Roberts, Senior Mentor - Georgia
Since being introduced to FLL by a friend in 2002, Mary Roberts has coached both FLL and FTC teams, participated as an FTC Pilot program Coach, and taken two teams to the Championship. Recently, Mary has mentored both FLL and FTC teams, organized FLL regional qualifiers, served as FTC Judge Advisor, and volunteered for many FIRST events. Before discovering FIRST, she was very involved in the Boy Scouts of America as Den Leader and Cub Scout Day Camp Coordinator. After graduating from Georgia Tech with a Mechanical Engineering degree, Mary worked as a computer programmer before staying at home with her children. While coaching FLL teams, she and her co-Coach were asked repeatedly to teach other children the skills learned by their team. As a result, they began a business to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) classes to students, leading to the formation of many FLL and FTC teams.

Javier Saenz, Senior Mentor - Texas

Javier Saenz is an engineering physics student at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where he also works as a developmental math tutor. Javier has been involved with FIRST for three years, mentoring Team 2833 for the FRC Lone Star Regional and as a Volunteer for a FTC event held this year in Brownsville. Javier is looking forward to the opportunities that come with being a Senior Mentor, especially within the Brownsville area where there is much uncharted territory for FIRST.

Lia Schwinghammer, Senior Mentor - North Carolina

As a young person, Lia Schwinghammer started her working life teaching children in the family business (preschool-daycare center), transitioned to the business world for years, and is again working with young people. After college and graduate school, Lia worked in business becoming experienced in international trade. Her experience includes operations at a Foreign Trade Zone, managing international sales and distribution for a medical manufacturer, and cross cultural communication trainings for Fortune 500 firms.

After having children and wanting to be involved in their activities, she began volunteering with youth organizations such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and FIRST. Her growing involvement in FIRST fostered her desire to encourage young people to pursue science and technology careers.

Tom Settle, Senior Mentor - North Carolina
Tom Settle has extensive experience as a Technology Leader and Trainer. As a Network Engineer for 11 years with Cisco, Tom was responsible for supporting and training Cisco customers and employees worldwide on LAN and Data Center Switching Technology. During that time, Tom also served as Content Manger for the coveted CCIE Storage Networking certification. Tom’s foundation in technology education has helped him to successfully volunteer as a Coach and Mentor for many FIRST teams since 2006.

Dennis Skurulsky, Senior Mentor - Wisconsin

Dennis Skurulsky has been involved in education for over 30 years. He has worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, coordinator, grant writer, and department chair. He co-authored and piloted the state curriculum for High School Engineering. He has also been a lead Mentor for an FRC team in Wisconsin for five years. Dennis is student-centered, has a strong work ethic, possesses a great sense of humor, welcomes challenges, and has a proven ability to motivate others.

Rose Young, Senior Mentor - Maryland

Rose Young, a science teacher, began her involvement with FIRST in 2006 when she was asked to mentor the new high-school FRC team her oldest son joined as a freshman. At the same time, her youngest son joined the new FLL team at the local middle school. Since then she has continued to mentor the FRC team which “adopted” three FLL teams from the middle school, and several elementary school FLL teams as well. Rose represents the FRC team as part of the Baltimore Area Alliance of FRC Teams, and has served as Assistant Volunteer Coordinator at the Chesapeake Regional. Her FRC team has run annual FLL Qualifiers in Maryland since they began, and Young has also helped co-host the Battle o’ Baltimore off-season FRC event each year for the past five summers. In 2011, Young began working to help enable the formation of a non-profit corporation to support regional robotics and STEM programs, which will support existing FRC and FLL teams as well as a new FTC team in the Carroll County, Maryland area.

AmeriCorps VISTAs… work to create a broader awareness of FIRST in their community, focusing particularly on the needs of the underserved while seeking support from Sponsors to help meet the needs and challenges of teams, Mentors, Coaches, and Volunteers for all FIRST programs.

Tripat Kaberwal, NYC
Tripat Kaberwal comes to FIRST after working as a Donor Relations and Office Assistant for A.J. Muste Memorial Institute in New York, New York. Prior to her work at A.J. Muste, she was a Reader for the Record Campaign & Development AmeriCorps VISTA through Jumpstart for Young Children. During her service at Jumpstart, she was responsible for event planning, event logistics, and development administration. Tripat’s foundation in the non-profit sector was developed while she was a Development Intern for SAYA! (or the South Asian Youth Action) in Elmhurst, NY. Her role as a Development Intern consisted of grant research, database development, and community event planning. She holds a B.A. in Global Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Eric Leifermann, Washington, DC
Eric Leifermann recently graduated from Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He has been involved in FIRST for the past 11 years as both a student and Mentor. He has aspirations of volunteering in the Peace Corps with his wife when his time as a VISTA comes to an end. From his beginnings in FIRST to his involvement in Mu Beta Psi National Honorary Musical Fraternity, Eric has always been dedicated to community service and volunteering. Being able to merge his love for FIRST and community service is a dream-come-true for Eric.

Jesse Moskowitz, Massachusetts

Jesse Moskowitz graduated from Emory University in 2007 with highest honors. As a student, and since then, he has volunteered extensively for literacy organizations. With experience in New England non-profit organizations, as well as international business supply chain management, Jesse is eager to bring his experience to FIRST.

Jaron Newton, New Hampshire
Jaron Newton graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Geographic Information Systems. While attending college, Newton was an intern for a children’s science museum called WonderLab Museum of Health, Science and Technology in Bloomington, Indiana. As an intern he was responsible for recruiting, training, managing, and mentoring many volunteers who served the museum. Also during his undergraduate years, Newton was a summer intern for Science Applications International Corporation. Through SAIC, he worked closely with radio frequency engineers on signal jamming technologies intended for military use. Newton hopes to use his experiences to be able to help students across the country realize their academic and professional goals.

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