Meet the Planning Team

We’re immensely grateful to the amazing individuals who take time out of their busy work schedules to make ROBOTICON possible!  Each year, dozens of people, many of them FIRST alumni, come together to produce our in-person event held at the Yuengling Center at the University of South Florida.  As the event has grown, we’ve reached out to key volunteers to pull together a formal planning team and we especially appreciate their willingness to help out this year, with the myriad challenges COVID-19 presents.  Please join us in giving high fives and admiration to the fine folks highlighted here, who are pulling together a great ROBOTICON Live Online 2020 event for you!

Steve and Terri at ROBOTICON 2018

Steve and Terri Willingham

Steve and Terri started ROBOTICON in 2013 at the University of Tampa, when a previous Tampa off-season event was discontinued. With the help of amazing volunteers, sponsors and community partners, they’ve grown the event to one of the largest off-seasons and FIRST showcase events in the country, drawing over 4000 attendees over the last couple of seasons.

Together they have more than 30 years of experience working with FIRST programs, as volunteers, coaches, and mentors. Additionally, Terri served as Regional Director for FIRST in Central Florida for six years and Steve served as Florida FIRST Tech Challenge Judge Advisor for four years. They are also the founders of the nonprofit Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI), which organizes ROBOTICON.

Building off the success of ROBOTICON,  in 2018 they founded the Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center (AMRoC) Fab Lab, at University Mall in Tampa, near the University of South Florida.  AMRoC Fab Lab is home to Florida’s only FIRST Robotics Center, with a full scale FIRST Robotics Competition field, FIRST Tech Challenge fields and FIRST LEGO League tables and resources. AMRoC Fab Lab also supports REC VEX programs and provides school to workforce training programs for all ages.

Scott with co-host and FIRST Alum Daniele Mendez, at ROBOTICON 2015

Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz is a FIRST Robotics Competition alumni from the early days of FRC, where he was a team member at Lakewood High School in Pinellas County, FL.  Today, Scott is the founder and CEO of PLUGHITZ Corporation, a media company and technology consulting firm.   PLUGHITZ has been ROBOTICON’s Media Partner since our inception in 2013, and launched the FIRST Looks series shortly afterwards, which has expanded to coverage at the Orlando Regional.

Bryan at ROBOTICON 2019

Bryan Bautista

Currently a student at Florida Atlantic University, Bryan Bautista is a FIRST alum from South Florida, and a long time ROBOTICON volunteer, serving as an game announcer and emcee, as well as supporting scoring and other field support during the off-season.   This year, Bryan is  organizing the ROBOTICON CAD Challenge and helping with overall event planning.

Kate Sample

Kate has spent the better part of 15 years around the FIRST programs. An alumni of the FIRSTⓇ Robotics Competition Team 1108 Panther Robotics, she has been involved with all four programs of FIRST in a number of roles including helping to found, support, coach, and mentor teams. Kate’s experience with FIRST extends to being a volunteer for all four programs as well. She has held nearly every role, from safety glasses to judge advisor, a Control Systems Advisor and even a well-known emcee and game announcer in the Kansas City area.  In 2019, she brought her emcee skills to ROBOTICON and we’re delighted she’s part of this year’s event planning team.  She currently works as a FIRST VISTA Leader and coaches FRC Team 3653, the Botcats, at West Broward High School.

Marissa at FIRST Global 2019, in Dubai.

Marissa Schiereck

A recent graduate from University of South Florida with a B.S. in Businesses Management, Marissa is a FIRST alum from FIRST Tech Challenge team 2845, Team Duct Tape.  She’s been involved in FIRST since for more than ten years, since her elementary school FIRST LEGO League days ,  has been a volunteer with Florida FIRST Tech Challenge for the past four years, and a ROBOTICON volunteer since our inception.  In 2019, she traveled to Dubai to volunteer with FIRST Global. She is passionate about robotics and non-profit work, and currently serves as an Americorps VISTA with FIRST. 

Eric at ROBOTICON 2019

Eric Schnabel

Eric is a graduate of Kettering University and works as an Infrastructure Analyst at Beaumont Health.  A FIRST alum, he has served as a FIRST Field Technical Advisor (FTA) since 2012.  Last year he served as FTA at ROBOTICON and we’re grateful for his support again this year, as a member of the planning team.

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