The first ever Tampa Bay FIRST Benefit Showcase event, sponsored by USF Connect and the Florida High Tech Corridor and held February 3rd at the University of South Florida, brought area teams and members of the Tampa Bay business and technical community together to raise awareness about the academic and career readiness value of FIRST, and to build support for the Orlando Regional FIRST Robotics Competition event.
FIRST founder Dean Kamen recorded a special message, just for our event, and FIRST alumni Barry Bohnsack, now with Lockheed Martin and an active FIRST volunteer, provided the keynote address, giving a powerful overview of FIRST and its proven relationship to academic achievement and workforce readiness. FIRST alumni Jessie Poen, a Dean’s List winner and FIRST Ambassador at both the Orlando Regional and the South Florida Regional, shared her experience, which included earning six community scholarships based on her FIRST involvement and a spot in the USF Honors College. And special guest Patricia Gehant, Director of Workforce Initiative with the Tampa Bay Technology Forum and the value of FIRST to help close the technology gap for students and satisfy workforce needs for Tampa Bay.
Area teams from Academy at the Lakes in Land O’Lakes, who brought their FLL & FRC Wired Wildcats teams, Middleton High School’s Minotaur FRC team and Palm Harbor University High School’s FTC team, Pandara did a fantastic job showcasing their work for event attendees. Showcase attendees were even treated to a great research presentation by the Wired Wildcats FLL team, that pretty much stole the show!
We’re deeply grateful to the business leaders and organizations that showed up on Super Bowl Sunday to celebrate a different kind of hero – youth and their mentors who are transforming our culture by creating the science and technology leaders we need in the world. In addition to representatives from USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, we were happy to welcome business leaders from the Southeast Capital Equity Group, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, Basler Electric, 2Z Consulting Inc. and Bar Camp Tampa Bay, among others.
The involvement of Florida FIRST Alumni was an especially powerful part of the program, giving guests an opportunity to meet and hear firsthand the personal experiences of former FIRST students and how FIRST paved the way for academic and career opportunities for them.
Thank you to all who made the Tampa Bay FIRST Benefit Showcase possible, and so enjoyable!