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 technical know-how and life skills they’ll need to transform our futures.

Mission Control

Amy Thiessen

The Optimist

Amy is FIRST® UK's match-maker. As Programme Manager (Partnerships) she’s focused on finding the right friends to collaborate with in order to amplify impact on the young people we serve. Amy works with corporate partners to maximise effective employee engagement whether that's regular mentoring, ad hoc volunteering opportunities through to leadership and team building days. 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 be a critical on the job asset.

Ed Cervantes-Watson

The Disruptor

Ed is an 'in'trepreneur at heart - his ideas (not always good ones), agility and boundless energy drive the charity forward at pace. Frustrated by standing still he is constantly asking 'will it make the boat go faster'? Ed describes the mission simply as 'making the charity go out of business' - a world where every young person is equipped with the technical know-how and life skills to own their futures. In the meantime he's focused on defining the pathway to impact - and securing the sustainable investment and critical friendships to get there fast. Ed led innovation at Cancer Research UK devising a number of award-winning fundraising products, disrupted funding models and drove strategic growth. He's also spent several years globe-trotting whilst building a start-up adventure tour operator into a sector-leading SME. His passions include his partner Katherine, their two young boys Zeb and Oz, travel, and anything to do with the water, outdoors or food.

Martin Ebsworth

The Ambassador

Martin is our man on the ground. As regional Development Lead he focuses on developing relationships with schools, industry and local partners to execute the vision of FIRST® UK in the communities we serve. 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 - invaluable knowledge of the classroom which he now deploys to refine FIRST®UK's educational offering through developing curriculum aligned resources and accreditation for teachers.

Michael Goudreault

The Advocate

Michael as our Programme Manger (Schools) spends his days at FIRST® UK, 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® UK event, sharing his enthusiasm for STEM.

Muktar Ali

The Product Guy

As Chief Operating Officer, Muktar is living out his dream job at FIRST® UK. 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

The Storyteller

Patrice owns all things comms, brand, and marketing (what you'd hope from the Comms and Marketing Manager) 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

The People Person

In her capacity as Programme Manager (People) Shannon drives the mentor and volunteer pipeline and customer journey - in addition to overseeing programmatic delivery of FIRST® Tech Challenge. Before joining the charity, Shannon coordinated career development programmes in a USA university, and acted as 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 she's obviously looking forward to when we establish our Rio de Janeiro outpost.

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 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, Founder, FIRST® UK