Student Innovations in Water Use, Interaction Recognized at FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award

Spanish Team Awarded $20,000 Prize to Help Advance Pioneering Agricultural Solution

FIRST Welcomes Leaders from Society of Women Engineers and Johnson R&D Corporation to Board of Directors

Executive Director and CEO of Society of Women Engineers and President and Founder of Johnson R&D Corporation Join Board of Global K-12 STEM Organization

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Dean Kamen - President, DEKA Research & Development Corporation

Board of Directors

Kelly Ortberg - Co-Chair; Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Rockwell Collins

Robert M. Tuttle - Co-Chair, General Partner, 1848 Associates

Dr. Laurie Leshin - Vice Chair; President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Dr. Vincent Wilczynski - Treasurer; Deputy Dean, School of Engineering & Applied Science, Yale University

Dr. Donald E. Bossi - Secretary; President, FIRST

Dean Kamen - Founder; President, DEKA Research & Development Corporation

John E. Abele - Founding Chairman, Retired, Boston Scientific Corporation

Virginia Addicott - President & Chief Executive Officer, FedEx Custom Critical

Dr. Robin N. Coger - Dean, College of Engineering, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T)

Walter P. Havenstein - Chief Executive Officer, Retired, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)

Karen Horting - Executive Director and CEO, Society of Women Engineers

Dr. Paul E. Jacobs - Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, XCOM

Lonnie Johnson - President and Founder, Johnson Research and Development Corporation

John H. Lynch - Former Governor, State of New Hampshire

Scott McKay - Former Executive Vice President of Business & Product Strategy at Genworth Financial

Dennis A. Muilenburg - Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Company

Dr. David Siegel, Co-Chairman, Two Sigma Investments

Myron E. Ullman, III - Chairman, Starbucks; Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Retired, JCPenney

Honorary Directors

Paul A. Allaire - FIRST Chairman: 1995-2000; Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Retired, Xerox Corporation

J.T. Battenberg III - Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Retired, Delphi Corporation

Francois Castaing - Executive Vice President, Retired, Chrysler Corporation

L. John Doerr III - Chairman, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Gary L. Tooker - Chairman of the Board, Retired, Motorola, Inc.

James R. Utaski - FIRST Chairman: 2000-2002; Corporate Mergers & Acquisitions Officer, Retired, Johnson & Johnson

Senior Advisors

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson - President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen - Deputy Chairman of the Board, LEGO Foundation & KIRKBI A/S

Dr. William P. Murphy, Jr. - Founder, Cordis Corporation

Steve Sanghi - Chairman of the Board, President & Chief Executive Officer, Microchip Technology, Inc.

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen - United States Senator, New Hampshire

Josh Weston - Honorary Chairman, Automatic Data Processing, Inc.

Executive Advisory Board

Dr. Woodie Flowers - Co-Chair & Distinguished Advisor; Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kevin Ross - Co-Chair, Founder, Washington FIRST Robotics

Ray Almgren - Chairman, FIRST in Texas

Gail Alpert - President, FIRST in Michigan

Mark Breadner - President, FIRST Robotics Canada

Sujeet Chand - Chief Technology Officer & Senior Vice President, Rockwell Automation, Inc.

Cosema (Connie) Crawford, P.E. - Senior Vice President, The Louis Berger Group, Inc.

Michael Dubno - Head of Global Markets & Research Technology, Retired, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Greg Hale - Vice President & Chief Safety Officer, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Erik Halleus - President & Chief Executive Officer, EuroScandia Enterprises

Luan Heimlich - Manager, Technology-based Outreach, Department of Engineering, Macquarie University

James E. Heppelmann - President & Chief Executive Officer, PTC

Marc Hodosh - Co-Creator, TEDMED

Kent H. Hughes - Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Esben Staerk Jørgensen - President, LEGO Education

David Lavery - Program Executive for Solar System Exploration, NASA

Paul Lazarus - President, White Dwarf Productions

Susie Mathieu - Partner, Spirit Hockey, LLC

Ceci Neumann - Independent Law Practice Professional

Nancy Quan - Chief Technical Officer, North America, The Coca-Cola Company

Heidi Sipe - Superintendent, Umatilla Public Schools

Robert Sobolewski - Chair, President, ingenuityNE

Dave Wilson - Vice President of Product Marketing, National Instruments

FIRST Leadership Team

Donald E. Bossi - President

Terry Durkin - Vice President, Finance

Erica Fessia - Vice President, Field Operations

Mark Giordono - Vice President, Development

Mark Greenlaw - Vice President, Strategy and Impact


Erica Fessia

Erica Fessia

Vice President of Field Operations

Erica joins us from Qualcomm, a FIRST Strategic Partner, where she most recently served as Director of Community Engagement and has been instrumental in supporting and growing Qualcomm’s relationship with FIRST over the past few years.  In addition, Erica served on the FIRST Executive Advisory Board (EAB) for the last two years.

Erica brings a very strong professional and leadership background to FIRST in social entrepreneurship, community engagement, and human-resource management, spanning both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds.  In addition to a successful, long-time career with Qualcomm and running her own HR consultancy, in 2007 Erica launched a non-profit organization, South Bay Children’s Museum, to pursue her passion for creating memorable learning experiences in the areas of math, science, and art for children in her community.  Hence, FIRST fits beautifully with Erica’s long-time interests and passions.

In her role, Erica’s primary mission will be to work with the overall FIRST community to develop and evolve our vision and implementation for sustainable, coherent, growth-oriented local FIRST ecosystems, where kids throughout the world have access to a solid progression of FIRST programs. 

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

President and Founder, Johnson Research and Development Corporation

Lonnie Johnson is president and founder of Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc., a technology-development company, and its spin-off companies, Excellatron Solid State, LLC; Johnson Electro-Mechanical Systems, LLC; and Johnson Battery Technologies, Inc.

Johnson holds a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, an M.S. degree in nuclear engineering, and an honorary Ph.D. in science from Tuskegee University. Upon graduation, he worked as a research engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then joined the U.S. Air Force, serving as acting chief of the Space Nuclear Power Safety Section at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1979, he left the Air Force to accept a position as senior systems engineer at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter. Returning to the Air Force in 1982, he served as an advanced space systems requirements officer at Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and as chief of the Data Management Branch, SAC Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal on two different occasions. In 1987, he returned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the Mars Observer project and was the fault protection engineer during the early stages of the Cassini (Saturn) project.

In 1989, Johnson formed his own engineering firm and licensed his most famous invention, the Super Soaker® water gun, to Larami Corporation. Two years later, the Super Soaker® generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the No. 1 selling toy in America. Over the years, Super Soaker ® sales have totaled close to $1 billion. Currently, Johnson holds over 100 patents, with over 20 more pending, and is the author of several publications on spacecraft power systems.

Johnson serves on the Georgia FIRST Board of Directors and has been an active supporter and proponent of FIRST since 2003.  He frequently serves as a judge and speaker at FIRST events and makes more than 20,000 square feet of space in his facility in downtown Atlanta available to FIRST teams for build space and scrimmage events. Lonnie’s daughter participates in FIRST® LEGO® League.

Karen Horting

Karen Horting

Executive Director and CEO, Society of Women Engineers

Karen Horting is the executive director and CEO for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), a position she has held since December 31, 2013. With more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and fund development, Horting was most recently the SWE deputy executive director. In this capacity, she was responsible for all fund-development activities for the organization, including corporate membership and SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council, as well as more traditional philanthropy such as foundation and government grants, individual gifts, and bequests. She also oversaw many of the Society’s programs and services, including professional development, K-12 outreach, the annual conference and SWE’s international expansion.

Horting came to SWE in March 2004 from the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), where she served as director of strategic planning, managing the academy’s development activities and long-range organizational planning. Prior to her role with NYAS, Horting worked for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, managing both marketing and fund development on a global level for Science’s Next Wave, a groundbreaking career-development website for graduate students and post-doctorates in science, math and technology. Horting’s experience also includes more than 10 years in the paint and coatings industry in a variety of technical service and marketing functions.

Horting holds a B.S. in biology from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

SWE has been a FIRST Strategic Alliance since 2008, and Karen’s leadership has helped significantly grow SWE’s level of support and engagement with FIRST. Karen has also worked to increase the number of SWE volunteers at FIRST events, with more than 1,150 SWE members having volunteered in recent years. SWE has also helped FIRST teams financially, including $1,000 grants for 70 FIRST® Robotics Competition teams.


Thank you for being a part of our FIRST® Story

To all the volunteers who shared their stories with us this season, on social media, over email, and at events, thank you for telling us your FIRST story! You inspired us with your passion and dedication, you moved us with your heartfelt narratives, and you helped spread the word about the mission and vision of FIRST. If you haven’t joined the conversation yet, we still want to hear from you. Tell us why you volunteer with FIRST, your favorite FIRST volunteer memory, or what inspires you to be a FIRST volunteer. We couldn’t do what we do without you. Here are a few of your stories.

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Be sure to grab your virtual year of service pin here, and let the world know you are a proud FIRST volunteer.

Thank you also to our team of FIRST Championship volunteers! Check out these videos for some volunteer highlights in Houston and Detroit.

Applying for Jobs or Internships? These Tips Can Help!

Jun 16, 2018 Written by FIRST Staff

As FIRST Alumni, many industry leaders want to hire you for your problem-solving, critical thinking and digital literacy skills.  It’s important that you communicate your experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities on your job application and in your interview. FIRST Strategic Partners Dow and Qualcomm offer great advice on their websites to help you succeed. Here are just a few: