FIRST Senior Mentor Bios 2012-2013
Clint Barnes, FSM, Nevada
Clint Barnes has been a member of the FIRST family since 2008. After being on an FRC team for only one year he realized its positive impact, and that the community that surrounds it can make a difference. Since then Barnes has been actively supporting the Nevada FIRST community. Currently, Barnes works full time at Pololu Robotics, and is pursuing his degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Renee Becker, FSM, Minnesota
Renee Becker is an alumnus of FRC Team 1675 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Scientific and Technical Communications at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. During her freshman year she founded a FIRST Alumni Organization, called GO FIRST, to help support the Twin Cities FIRST Community. Throughout her college career, Becker mentored eight FRC teams; helping them with presentations, award submissions, and strategic planning. Becker is a member of the Non-Engineering Mentor Organization (NEMO), facilitator of Roundtable meetings at regionals and off-season events in the Midwest, co-founder of Assisting Creative Energy (ACE), and has presented at: the FIRST Championship Conferences, Minnesota Splash, and other FRC workshops.
Teri Benart, FSM, California
Teri Benart has 20+ years of experience in the Information Technology field. She has done 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. Benart was introduced to FIRST in 2008 by her son and mentored Team 2085 from Vacaville, CA until 2012. She has also participated in FIRST as a judge for both the FLL and FRC in the northern California Region and at Championships for FRC in 2011. She serves on the regional planning committee for the Sacramento Regional and is the Regional Planning Committee Chair for 2012 and 2013.
Ron Borden, FSM, New York
Ron Borden has been involved in FIRST since 2002. He works at Bausch + Lomb as the FIRST Program Director. He serves on the Finger Lakes Regional Planning Committee and is one of the two charter members of the committee. He was the Chairperson from 2002 until 2009. Borden Mentors 5
Don Brobst, FSM, DC/Virginia
Don Brobst has over 30 years of experience in software and systems engineering in defining requirements and project management. Brobst is a certified PMP and has done extensive work in process improvement. He is also a retired Naval Reservist as well as a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. Brobst is active in the Falls Church community and currently serves as the Chair of the City’s Housing Commission. He has been a mentor to FIRST Team 1418, and this is his 3rd year as a FIRST Senior Mentor for the DC area.
Robert Dumler, FSM, Missouri
Robert Dumler began his involvement with FIRST in 2006. He has had many roles in FIRST in his short amount of time that he has been involved. He has been a Coach, Mentor, Referee at GKC and OKC Regionals, Head Referee at GKC, Boston, and OKC Regionals, FTAA at OKC Regional, and a RPC member for the GKC Regional. Dumler has been an Industrial Technology teacher for 13 years at the Middle School and High School level, and three years at the college level.
Henry Graham, FSM, Missouri
Henry Graham began his involvement with FIRST in 2003. Since that time he has mentored four different FRC teams. He joined the St. Louis Regional Planning Committee in 2005. Since joining the Planning Committee he has volunteered at local FLL, FTC and FRC events as a head queuer, robot inspector and field setup, among other things. Graham retired from McDonnell Douglas and The Boeing Company where he worked as a design engineer and program analyst. He has a degree in Technical Aeronautics and a Masters in Business Management. Graham is involved as a mentor with an inner-city youth group, where the focus is on teaching personal responsibility and education as the foundation for a successful future. He is also a member of the Optimist Club - a friend of youth organization, as well as a member of the Boeing Employee Mentoring Robotics Club, where Boeing employees get together to learn and teach one another how to become better Mentors.
Keith Hall, FSM, Indiana
Keith Hall has more than twenty years’ experience in the mainframe computer industry. He was recruited into FIRST in 2007 by a local FRC team after they discovered he was teaching an after school introduction to robotics class at a nearby high school. He is a member of the Midwest Regional Planning Committee, mentors FRC team 2171, and judges at a FLL Qualifying Tournament. Hall is attending Purdue Calumet, studying physics and mathematics while working towards a license to teach high school sciences.
Dana Henry, FSM, Massachusetts
Dana Henry has worked for the United Technologies business unit, Hamilton Sundstrand/Space Systems for 30 years, building various life support systems for NASA and the US 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 US Navy submarines. In 2002, Henry co-founded Rosie Robotics, FRC 839, and in 2005 co-founded FTC 839 with the late John Burns. Since then, Henry has expanded FIRST to all schools in all grade levels in Agawam, MA, founded the Agawam Robotics Education Association, Inc. a 501(c) (3) and currently serves as President. He has organized FLL state qualifying tournaments for 4 years and has been a FRC Championship Inspector for 8 years. Henry has also presented various training modules at Kick Off in Manchester, NH, on rookie FRC/FTC/FLL team formulation, veteran team sustainability, and how to shape local politics for the support of FIRST.
Mike Henry, FSM, Texas
Mike Henry has a Master of Science in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education from Baylor University. During his 25 years of experience as an educator, Henry has been involved in developing and implementing many space education projects. He designed, built, and operated a classroom simulation involving a space flight simulator and a mission control simulator for students in which “space flights” were conducted. In addition, for the past nine years he was the faculty advisor for a high school robotics team that designed, built, and operated robots in a competitive event. His team was a Regional winner twice during the nine year period. In 2008, after 25 years of teaching, Henry received the news that he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and he retired from teaching in order to undergo chemotherapy for the cancer. He is now been cancer free since April 2009. For 2009 and 2010, Mr. Henry worked as a consultant and mentor for the Robert E. Lee High School STEM Academy robotics programs. In 2011, FRC Team 457 became active after a two year hiatus, and he is now mentoring that team again. Team 457 was a member of the winning alliance at the 2012 Alamo Regional in San Antonio and advanced to the Championship in St. Louis.
Ted Hood, FSM, Ohio
Ted Hood was introduced to FIRST when he attended an FLL summer camp with his daughter. Since then, he has been a Coach, Mentor and Volunteer for all levels of FIRST. He has volunteered in roles such as Judge, Referee, Volunteer Coordinator, and Tournament Director for FLL, FTC and FRC events in Ohio. Hood also works with the Dayton Regional STEM School as a Robotics Advisor and has worked as an aircraft Avionics Technician.Currently, Hood manages a training program for over 64,000 people. He uses his background in Electronics and Education to help every team he mentors. Hood’s strengths in these areas help him relate to both the kids and FIRST.
Eileen Kahn, FSM, California
Eileen Kahn has a background in Public Relations and Marketing. She became involved in education in 1999, by working with after school programs. She got involved with FIRST when her oldest child was in 9th grade (in 2004) as the team mom. When the program needed a teacher she earned her teaching credentials and went to work officially as a teacher with the ROP Program at Beverly Hills High School. She started a robotics entrepreneurship program at BHHS and runs her classes and program using a corporate model. Kahn maintains three classes at BHHS and her team, 1515, which usually has 80-100 members each year. She has successfully mentored 12 teams including 3 internationally. Kahn has served as a Google On Air Education Presenter for robotics. She speaks five languages fluently and loves working with motivated students.
Debbie Kerr, FSM, Oregon
Debbie Kerr has been involved with FIRST since 2007 when her oldest son joined FLL. She began as a parent volunteer for her son’s FLL team. The next year, Kerr helped organize and coach a rookie Jr.FLL team. When her oldest transitioned to a rookie FTC team and a rookie FRC team sponsored by Oregon City School District, she was closely involved as a parent volunteer. At its first Portland Autodesk Regional, Team 2550 won Rookie All-Star and advanced to worlds in Atlanta, Georgia. Kerr supported the team at worlds twice, and caught the vision and the mission of FIRST. Kerr graduated from BYU in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science and a minor in Business.
Kathie Kentfield, FSM, Connecticut
Kathie Kentfield has been a volunteer with FIRST for twelve years. She became a non-technical mentor with RAGE FRC 173 when her son joined the team. During her time with RAGE, Kentfield realized there was a need for providing support to mentors who work in the non-technical areas and co-founded NEMO (Non-Engineering Mentor Organization). NEMO has grown to over 600 members and publishes white papers on its website; www.firstnemo.org. Kentfield is a former FTC Affiliate Partner and volunteers for FLL, FTC, and FRC events. She is currently serving on the Connecticut Jr.FLL/FLL Operating Committee, CT FIRST State Operating Committee, CT FIRST Executive Advisory Board and NE FIRST Field Operations Committee.
Michael Klanica, FSM, Pittsburgh
Michael Klanica was introduced to FIRST in 2005 by Sarah Douglas and team 1743. His experience continued as he became 1743′s Mentor for the 2007 and 2008 competitions. In 2008, Klanica left City High for a teaching position at St. Joseph High School and to be closer to home for the birth and adoption of his son, Brady. Introducing competitive robotics to St. Joes, the school, along with PTC, formed FRC Team 3062, Spartan Robotics. That team went on to finish 2nd after the qualifying rounds at the 2009 Pittsburgh Regional, capturing the Highest Rookie Seed and Rookie All-Star awards and a trip to Championship Event in Atlanta. He continued the FIRST mission for two more years before leaving St. Joes after the 2010/2011 school year to return to computer programming. Klanica’ s pre-FIRST experiences consisted of two tours of duty with IUP, resulting in a bachelor’s degrees in Applied Mathematics/Applied Computer Science and Secondary Mathematics Education.
Nate Knauss, FSM, New Jersey/Pennsylvania
Nathan Knauss is a product of FIRST and has been serving as a FIRST Senior Mentor since 2009. A 2002 graduate of FRC Team 87, he decided to pursue a career in Technology Education at The College of New Jersey when he recognized that he could make a career out of inspiring youth to pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering. Knauss has served on the New Jersey FTC Planning Committee for a number of years and has volunteered as a referee and head referee at a number of FTC events in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and World Championships. He has also made a number of presentations at FTC Conferences in New Jersey designed to prepare students and mentors for the coming FTC season. Since graduating from high school, Knauss has served as a technical volunteer mentor and coach to FRC Teams 87 and 1647 before creating FRC Team 2729 and FTC Team 4390 in his current district. He also holds professional affiliation with the New Jersey Technology & Engineering Education Association where he was a winner of the association’s Image Award in 2012.
Faridodin “Fredi” Lajvardi, FSM, Arizona
Fredi is the lead mentor for the Falcon Robotics team 842 at Carl Hayden High School. He is a Marine Science teacher at the high school and is also the program director of the Marine Science program there. Fredi is also part of the instructional cabinet at the school and is active in developing the programs that help improve the school. He is also the vice president of APASE, Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education. APASE is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing extracurricular STEM competitions to the students of Arizona and to bring students from other states to Arizona to compete. The organization has a signature event that is now in its 7th year: NURC, the National Underwater Robotics Challenge. Lajvardi has won many awards such as the National Educator of the Year from IEEE, honorable mention for Educator of the Year from ASME, and he is a Woodie Flowers Regional award winner. His teams have won many awards including the Chairman's Award at FIRST Championships, National Champions at the MATE National ROV Championships, National Winner of the Spirit of Innovation, Pete Conrad Awards, and they have placed 12th out of 30 universities at the AUVSI and ONR Robosub Competitions.
Laura Miller, FSM, Pennsylvania
Laura Miller obtained her PhD in Medical Neurobiology from Indiana University, where she got her start in science outreach. Whether it was acting like a neuron with kids or demonstrating motor learning with high-school students, she found ways of making science fun. Miller now has over fifteen years of experience promoting STEM within the community, both individually and through collaborations with schools and university programs. She sees FIRST as a fantastic way of involving children of all ages in STEM, and was happy to be a part of the Regional Planning Committee in Pittsburgh. As a FIRST Senior Mentor, she’s now looking forward to working with FIRST members and in helping promote FIRST's activities within the community.
Rachel Riquelme, FSM, Kentucky
Rachel Riquelme is the Children’s Minister at High Street Baptist Church in Somerset, KY and the Co-Founder of Project 58:10 a non- profit organization that provides weekend backpacks of food for ~500 students who have little access to food when they are away from school. Riquelme is very involved in her community and in her local school system where she mentors a local FIRST robotics team, leads science and STEM related camps, teaches leadership in various programs, and volunteers in classrooms throughout the school year.
Roger Riquelme, FSM, Kentucky
Roger Riquelme has been involved in FIRST since 2001; first as a student team member and then as a mentor. While in high school, he was part of team 312 (Heatwave) in St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating, he attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. While in college, he was one of the founding mentors of team 1369 (Minotaur), which he mentored from 2004-2008. After graduating in 2008, he had the opportunity to serve as a technical mentor for team 461 (West Side Boiler Invasion). Riquelme currently teaches PLTW Pre-Engineering courses at Southwestern High School and coaches team 3259 (The Thoroughbots), which he helped establish in 2010.
Mary Roberts, FSM, Georgia
Mary Roberts has been involved with FIRST since 2002, when she was introduced to FLL by a friend. Since then, she has coached both FLL and FTC teams. She participated as an FTC Pilot program Coach, and has taken two teams to Championships. Recently Roberts has mentored both FLL and FTC teams, organized FLL regional qualifiers, served as FTC Judge Advisor, and volunteered for many FIRST events, including Championship, in FRC, FTC, and FLL. 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, Roberts 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; this has already led to many new FLL and FTC teams.
Javier Saenz, FSM, Texas
Javier Saenz is an engineering physics student at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where he also works as a developmental math tutor. Saenz 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, TX. Saenz is looking forward to the opportunities that come with being a Senior Mentor, especially within the Brownsville area where there is much unchartered territory for FIRST.
Lia Schwinghammer, FSM, North Carolina
Lia has a BS in Anthropology, a Masters in International Management, and worked for over 10 years in international sales and marketing before becoming a full time mom and parent educator. Schwinghammer has volunteered with FIRST since 2008, starting with a FLL team and graduating with her two kids into FTC and FRC. Currently, Schwinghammeris President and Founding Member of Youth Engineering & Technology Inspirations (YETI, Inc.) a non-profit based in Charlotte, NC promoting STEM education for all K-12 students.
Anne Shade, FSM, Maryland
By day, Anne Shade is a mechanical engineer for SAIC in Abingdon, Maryland, where she is the lead engineer for the passive systems and a key member of the test team for the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection program, which is developing the next generation collective protection tents for the warfighter. Shade has been involved in the FIRST program since 1998 when she helped form the robotics team at her high school. While earning her BS in Mechanical Engineering, Shade co-founded the Georgia Tech FIRST team, was the Lead Mentor for two high school teams, helped start over 20 FIRST teams, created team development sessions for the Atlanta area, and was the team development lead for the Peachtree Regional (Atlanta, GA) planning committee. She has since been involved on the Chesapeake Regional (Annapolis/Baltimore, MD) committee, and several years ago started and mentored the award winning Chesapeake (MD) High School team. Shade is no longer mentoring a team directly, but has since taken on the role of Chesapeake Planning Committee Chair. She has also held many FIRST volunteer roles including: Head Referee, Lead Robot Inspector, and Judge at various events. This will be Anne's sixteenth year in FIRST.
Mike Siegel, FSM, New York
While still in engineering school, Mike Siegel worked in aerospace. After graduation he took a position at a college television studio where he worked as an Assistant Chief Engineer. It was also at this time that he started to work with the Ferrari North American Racing team as an engineer. After a few years, he made a move to the ABC Television Network, working in Video Tape Support, Radio Frequency Engineering, and as a Post Production Engineer/Editor. After having won 21 Emmy Awards, and a Peabody Award, he decided to take an early retirement. Soon after, he was contacted by the Staten Island Technical High School inquiring if he was available to teach engineering subjects. Over the years that followed, he taught courses including; strength of materials, technical drawing, electronics, and started a robotics curriculum. Within a month, Siegel was introduced to an FRC team: Team 375. Under his leadership the team excelled. Siegel has also been a long-time member of the regional FLL Steering committee, and an event coordinator for regional FLL tournaments. Siegel’s involvement has spanned over ten years of being affiliated with FIRST.
Rick Sisk, FSM, California
Rick Sisk found the magic of FIRST when he helped his wife Dona start a rookie FRC Team in 2008. Since then, he has helped start and mentor several rookie teams, as well as acted as a judge at the Los Angeles and Phoenix regionals and the Championship in Atlanta. Sisk served in the Air Force at Langley AFB in VA. This is where he learned about computer programming, which led to his current position at Sage Software in Irvine, designing applications that run many small and medium-sized businesses around the world.
Mark Snodgrass, FSM, Indiana
Mark Snodgrass has worked with FIRST for 8 years. His primary focus has been working with middle school students who participate in FIRST Lego League. Snodgrass has helped create 2 FLL teams at Center Grove Middle School North. During his time as the coach of those teams, he also volunteered to be the coordinating director for the Indy South FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament. He has also helped FRC team 1741, Red Alert Robotics, create outreach activities for their Chairman’s Award such as Community Tech Night. Team 1741 helped bring Snodgrass’ desire to educate the community about internet safety in the digital world through that Community Tech Night. Students pre-K through 5th grade are educated by hands-on-science lessons, while their parents have the option to attend free technology training. Snodgrass teaches Computer Applications at Center Grove Middle School North in Greenwood, Indiana. He received his Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Indianapolis in 2000 and just this summer completed his Master’s degree in Education with a focus in Technology from Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis.
Sally Sylvester, FSM, Virginia
Sally Sylvester worked for over 10 years with Blue Cross/Blue Shield in
Eric VanBuren, FSM, Washington
Eric VanBuren has been involved with FIRST for four years starting when his son joined a FRC team. It wasn’t long until he became hooked on FIRST and switched his focus from the design and fabrication of the robot to being the lead mentor focusing on strengthening the teams Outreach, Marketing, Media, and Web performance. VanBuren has a background as a small business owner, auto and truck mechanic, Landlord, remodeling, and sales.
Joe Varnell, FSM, Texas
Joe “Super Nerd” Varnell has been involved in FIRST since 2009 when he went to the first FIRST Dallas Regional as a mentor and caught the FIRST Bug. His day job is as an Engineer at Lockheed Martin where he has worked in Software, Systems, Electrical, and now Test Engineering groups where he works on everything from guidance systems to missile simulations. Varnell started out as a Mentor for a FRC team but was soon involved in helping out rookie FRC teams, mentoring FLL teams, and conducting workshops for FRC and FLL teams. Varnell now also volunteers at FRC events as FTA and other positions and is a FLL Qualifier Head Referee. Varnell has a BS Degree in Math, builds and programs his own robots at home, and believes FIRST Robotics is the ‘Nerdvana’ he’s been looking for since he was a kid.