Who we are

We’re More Than Robots - we’re a global movement of educators and influencers determined to equip the next generation with the core STEM and life skills they’ll need to transform our futures.

Our story

In 2014 entrepreneur and philanthropist Vikrant Bhargava attended an event which was to have a marked impact upon his perception of how young people engage with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) – and the potential of robotics to transform young lives.

That event was the FIRST® championships in St Louis, USA – a gathering of 60,000 young people competing in alliances with robots they had built deploying STEM solutions to overcome real world issues.

Captivated by the kids’ enthusiasm and technical abilities, alongside stories from educators of previously unengaged youngsters now pursuing higher education and successful careers in STEM fields and with three children of his own, Vikrant became determined to bring the FIRST® ethos to the UK – to translate the benefits of mentor-based robotics learning and make it accessible to all.

"We need to equip and empower our young people today to take on the technological, social, environmental challenges of tomorrow - the kids aren't building robots, the robots are building the kids"

Vikrant Bhargava, Founding Chair, FIRST® UK

Our team

Amy Thiessen

Programme Manager

Amy is the FIRST® match-maker. Instead of finding missed connections, she’s focused on finding the right partners and friends to work alongside FIRST® Tech Challenge. With a history of volunteer work, Amy will be an advocate for getting our corporate partners and their employees involved in encouraging the next generation of STEM leaders. Prior to FIRST® UK, she used her relationship-building and analysis skills to execute events at firms in Vancouver and Toronto. With a shift in focus, she’s now working to identify opportunities for leveraging income, people, and resources to achieve our mission sooner. Since it’s always easier to make friends with food, Amy’s experience as a trained pastry chef will only help us build relationships in the future.

Ed Cervantes-Watson

CEO

Ed loves to shake things up. Before establishing FIRST® UK, he was Head of Innovation at Cancer Research UK (the UK's largest charity), responsible for devising a number of award-winning fundraising products, disrupting funding models, and driving strategic growth. Prior to CRUK, Ed spent several years building a start-up adventure tour operator into a sector-leading SME. With his entrepreneurial attitude and enthusiasm for not-for-profit, Ed will make sure that FIRST® Tech Challenge is a disruptive force within the education sector. His passions include his partner Katherine, their two young boys Zeb and Oz, travel, and anything to do with the outdoors or food.

Martin Ebsworth

Regional Education Development Lead

Martin is our man on the ground. With a focus on acquiring new schools and working with local industry partners, he executes the vision of FIRST® Tech Challenge in the actual communities we are invested in. An engineer by trade with over 24 years’ experience teaching at all levels, Martin is key to developing our mentor and volunteer pipeline. With a BEd(Hons) in Secondary Education from Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in Design and Technology, Martin served as Head of Faculty for Science and Technology. After establishing his own educational and training consultancy, Martin is excited by the challenge of establishing FIRST® as a leading provider of STEM education in the UK.

Michael Goudreault

Programme Manager

Michael spends his days at FIRST® Tech Challenge, ensuring our schools and teams have the best journey possible. Before joining the team, he worked at the University of Sheffield, coordinating science programs for schools and young people. An advocate for engaging tomorrow’s leaders, he’s worked with schools, universities, and international science museums. Despite already having a BA in Knowledge Integration, he’s currently completing an MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh. With a penchant for experimentation, you’ll likely find him in the thick of things at any FIRST® event, sharing his enthusiasm for STEM.

Muktar Ali

COO

Muktar is living out his dream job here at FIRST® Tech Challenge. A teacher and former Director of Robotics at the American School in London, he’s responsible for our day-to-day operations. With a decade of experience engaging young people with STEM, his secondary role could be dubbed ‘robot guru’. As a young student, he was offered the opportunity to participate in FIRST® programmes - an experience which he cites as the driving force behind his decision to study Architectural Technology at Westminster University. Muktar has mentored hundreds of young people over the years and is now translating his experience into inspiring the next generation of science and technology leaders.

Patrice John-Baptiste

Marketing Communications Manager

Patrice owns all things comms, brand, and marketing at FIRST® UK. Operating across all channels and events, she builds a narrative that resonates with our audience, making sure that everyone feels a part of the experience. A Graphic and Media Designer from University of the Arts London, Patrice honed her craft delivering consumer marketing campaigns and games with digital and creative agencies. While the head of comms programmes at Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Open Data Institute, she developed influencer strategies for public sector agencies. When she’s not working, you can find her binge-watching documentaries, dad dancing, or presenting to young people about opportunities in STEM and Tech Comms.

Shannon Keough

Programme Manager

Shannon is our quintessential Renaissance woman. With relationship-building and organisational skills, as well as experience in a non-for-profit organisation, Shannon leads the operational delivery of FIRST® Tech Challenge. Before joining the team, Shannon worked as Coordinator of career development programmes in a US university, and Assistant Director of a volunteer programme for young people. With an MSc in Latin American Development from King’s College London, and BA in Communication from Cabrini University, Shannon is excited to learn the ins and outs of getting a start-up charity off the ground. And just like any true Renaissance woman, Shannon’s skills involve singing – at least in karaoke bars.

Our pedigree

FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology) was founded by serial inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen (yes, the Segway guy!) in 1989, beginning with 28 teams in a high-school gym in the USA. Today, over 500,000 young people participate annually in FIRST® programmes. The fun they have, the knowledge they gain, and the friendships they make along the way build self-confidence, nurture creativity, and inspire them to solve the world’s greatest challenges, be strong citizens, and build a brighter future.

Any questions? Get in touch!

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