FIRST ®  (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Karmen in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. This not-for-profit public organization designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while gaining self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

A great group of folks work together to bring FIRST programs to youth all over the state. This includes a state operating committee, Executive Advisory Board, Regional Director, FIRST Senior Mentor, FIRST VISTA Volunteer, and hundreds of volunteer coaches, mentors, & supporters.


FIRST ® consists of four programs – FIRST  LEGO League Jr., FIRST  LEGO League, FIRST  Tech Challenge, and FIRST  Robotics Competition.  The programs vary by age and challenge so that learning never stops building upon itself.  Starting at age 6 and continuing through middle and high-school levels up to age 18, young people can participate at any level. Over 300,000 youth and more than 120,000 Mentors, Coaches, and Volunteers from over 60 countries participate in FIRST programs each year.


FIRST  programs in Wisconsin have a large support network that helps to organize and run events throughout our state at all of the program levels including FIRST LEGO League, Jr., FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST  LEGO League, Jr. and FIRST  LEGO League  programs are coordinated by the Center for Robotics Education out of Madison, Wisconsin.

FIRST  Tech Challenge is coordinated by our Program Affiliate Partner at the UW Milwaukee College of Engineering & Applied Science.

FIRST  Robotics Competition is coordinated by the FIRST Regional Director in Wisconsin.

FIRST  Wisconsin State Operating Committee Members:

Melody Ricci, Wisconsin FIRST Regional Director (
Lisa Bartig, WI FIRST LEGO League & LEGO League Junior Program Coordinator
Juli Pickering, WI FIRST Tech Challenge Program Coordinator
Steve Bissen, Seven Rivers Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, Chair
Jef Fenstermaker, Wisconsin Regional FIRST Robotics Compeition, Chair
Jane Blau, FIRST Senior Mentor (
Emma Schuff, FIRST Senior Mentor (


FIRST  programs in Wisconsin are overseen by an Executive Advisory Board composed of representatives from education and industry.  The volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of engineers, educators, and business leaders who live and work throughout the state of Wisconsin and have an interest in increasing student access to relevant, high-impact experiences related to STEM.

The 2017-2018 Board includes:

Sean Schuff, EAB Chair, Tesla Engineering Charter School, Appleton, WI
Jeff Fenstermaker, RPC Chair/EAB Vice Chair, GE Healthcare, Waukesha, WI
Michael Alburg, Dynamic Engineering Solutions, LLC, Milwaukee, WI
Rich Merkel, STEM Forward-Executive Director, Milwaukee, WI
Linda Larson, Electrical Engineer-IBM Systems & Techn Group, Madison, WI
Duan Lom, Trane, Inc. (retired), La Crosse, WI
Kathy Jones, Sargento, Human Resources, Plymouth, WI
Jay Flores, Rockwell Global Stem Ambassador, Milwaukee, WI
Craig Rigby, Johnson Controls, Glendale, WI
Jon Branson, Oshkosh Corporation