FIRST Appoints New Regional Directors

FIRST News Release

FIRST® Appoints Five New Regional Directors in Arizona, Hawaii, Long Island, New York, North Carolina, and Canada

Manchester, NH, October 2, 2009 - FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, recently announced the appointment of five new Regional Directors (RDs), including William Hodrinsky for School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, Inc.; Marie Hopper for North Carolina; Gary Ishikawa for Hawaii; Carol Popovich for Arizona; and Richard Yasui for Canada.

The role of an RD includes coordinating FIRST activities, as well as developing new regional partnerships and mentorships - with the goal of creating and maintaining robust, volunteer-driven, and self-sustaining programs in each region. FIRST holds local and regional robotics competitions in area schools, including the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), the FIRST LEGO® League (FLL), and the Junior FIRST LEGO® League (Jr.FLL).

"With an underlying principle of ‘Gracious ProfessionalismT’, FIRST encourages young people to be professionals first and competitors second," said Bruce Linton, Vice President of Planning and Field Operations, FIRST. "Emphasizing the value of others as well as respect for individuals and community, the concept of ‘Gracious Professionalism’ is paramount to assuring success in both the competitions and later in life."

William Hodrinsky - RD for Long Island
In his capacity as RD for FIRST, Hodrinsky will be in charge of coordinating the FRC, FTC, FLL, and Jr.FLL programs in the Long Island, N.Y., area, which currently has more than 100 FIRST teams. He previously served as the District Director of Information Technology at Connetquot Central School district in Bohemia, and as a District Coordinator of Technology at Central Islip Public Schools. Hodrinsky has been a School-Business Partnerships of Long Island (SBPLI) Board member for the past 10 months.

"I am excited about promoting an interest in science, engineering, and technology among our students, as well as helping to foster that interest through the college years and into their careers. With the help of FIRST and SBPLI, I believe we can develop the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Hodrinsky.

Marie Hopper - RD for North Carolina
Hopper initially became involved with FIRST in 2001 when she signed on as an FLL coach for her son’s team. Since then, she has coached an FRC team and 20 FLL teams, in addition to coaching FIRST Tech Challenge for a year. A small business owner for more than 20 years, Hopper expects to significantly expand the presence of FIRST in the North Carolina region. The region currently supports more than 225 FIRST teams.

"Through these robotics programs we hope to inspire students to become interested in science, math, and technology, and ultimately become tomorrow’s scientists and engineers," said Hopper.

Gary Ishikawa ? RD for Hawaii
As Deputy Adjutant General for the State of Hawaii, Brigadier General Ishikawa is also Deputy Director of the Hawaii National Guard’s Youth Programs, which include a residential mentorship program called the Youth Challenge Academy and "Operation About Face" for at-risk youth. It was through the Academy that General Ishikawa initially became involved with robotics. Today, the state supports more than 200 FIRST teams.

"Throughout my career, I have wanted to give back to the community and have tried to do so in my efforts with at-risk youth. I also have focused my efforts on advancing the profession of engineering, and, through the FIRST robotics programs have been given that rare opportunity to do both; to help future generations of leaders through the advancement of science and technology," said the Ishikawa, who also serves as the Deputy Director of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, and the state’s Office of Veterans Services.

Carol Popovich ? RD for Arizona
Popovich is the Principal Investigator for the Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) and Stardust Foundation grant, known as the "FIRST Arizona Educational Infrastructure Initiative." In this role, she performs fundraising, team recruitment and retention, and promotes FIRST in Arizona. Popovich also serves as FIRST Community Relations Representative for Microchip Technology Inc., and she co-chairs the Arizona FIRST Planning Committee. During her 14-year career with Microchip, Popovich has served as Business Analyst and Coordinator of the Company’s Academic Program, where she interfaced with K through 12 educators and encouraged them to incorporate Microchip’s products into their curriculum.

"Through our FIRST efforts, I hope to play a part in seeding the next generation of engineers and technologists," said Popovich, whose state currently has more than 180 FIRST teams.

Richard Yasui ? RD for Canada
A founding mentor of FRC Team 1310, Runnymede Robotics, Yasui went shopping for classroom robots in 2003, but found FIRST instead. Since then, he has been the Main Coordinator, as well as the programming and electrical mentor for the team. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and for the past 18 years, and has been teaching Math, Science, and Computer Technology courses at Runnymede Collegiate Institute in Toronto. In addition, for the past two years Yasui has been involved with Howard Public School’s FLL team. Canada currently supports approximately 550 FIRST teams.
"In my 18 years of teaching Math, Science and Technology, FIRST is the most significant teaching and student learning experience I have been involved in. It is the perfect vehicle for inspiring our young people to become the technology leaders of the future," said Yasui.

About  FIRST
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for high-school students, FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) for children 9-14 years old, and Junior FIRST LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) for 6 to 9 year-olds. 


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