NE FIRST

New England FIRST Team

Michael Fantom, Executive Director

Michael Fantom is a mission-driven, non-profit leader with demonstrated success building organizations and teams. His leadership experience includes extensive governance, donor, volunteer, strategic partnership management and youth development.

Michael became the Executive Director of New England FIRST on March 1, 2021. He was first exposed to robots and LOGO as a primary school student in Scotland. LOGO is a language developed in the 1960s to introduce children to basic programming concepts and teach programming. LOGO was a language created by Seymour Papert and Marvin Minsky- cofounders of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Michael was introduced to the LOGO language as an 11-year-old. Two professors at the Artificial Intelligence Department of Edinburgh University, Jim Howe and Tim O’Shea led this small research project back in 1976. Little did he imagine while learning to program a turtle to move and draw with simple words and directions as a Scottish school child that he would lead FIRST programs throughout New England.

Formerly the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House® Charities of New England he led an organization with an annual operating budget of over $3.5MM, assets of $13MM, 18 employees and 400 volunteers.

Michael is recognized for several accomplishments during his long tenure with Ronald McDonald House Charities. He grew the capacity of the Providence House program, managing all aspects of the capital and building campaign to add additional bedroom and living capacity, successfully developing and securing $5MM capital campaign funds. As a result of this growth, the Providence capacity generated new hospital partnerships in the area of pediatric behavioral health.

Michael led all foundation, grant and major gifts strategic planning in conjunction with key staff and Board support and developed the “Adopt a Room” fundraising model, which was recognized as a best program within the RMHC community. He also led Ronald McDonald Family Room growth in the Boston Region, adding four new family rooms and strengthening mission-critical relationships with regional hospitals including UMass Memorial Medical Center, MGH for Children and Women and Infants Hospital.

Previously, Michael served as Director, Program Services/Interim Executive Director at Crossroads for Kids Inc., a non-profit providing leadership programs for young people from at-risk environments in Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. In this role, Michael built several strategic partnerships for the organization, including with Boston Medical Center, Boston Renaissance Charter School, WiredWoods, The Institute of Contemporary Art and the Duxbury Bay Maritime School. During his tenure with the organization, Michael oversaw a $2MM+ budget, executed programs at 4 facilities, and managed a full-time and seasonal staff of 150+ employees.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Michael served as the Director for The National Asthma Campaign (Asthma U.K.) for Project for Asthma and Eczema Kids (PEAK) Health Education in Edinburgh, UK. As Director, he planned and delivered a comprehensive youth development program for young people with asthma/eczema. Michael ensured consistently high quality of care and compliance with legal and statutory requirements.  He recruited a new Medical Board of Directors and led a partnership project owned by The National Asthma Society and The National Eczema Society.

Michael earned a BA (Hons.) in Elementary Education Studies from the University of Lancaster, United Kingdom. He pursued Non-Profit Leadership studies at Northwestern University’s, Kellogg School of Management, and holds a Certificate in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management from Harvard Business School.

Michael has been a Trustee for AscapeUK, an educational adventure holiday experience for children with atopic conditions and a former a Board Member of the “The Molar Express” RI-USA, Pediatric Dental Care Mobile. He is a Life Member of A.F.S. International Youth Development Organization.

Kim Pita, Engagement & Advancement

Kim Sirois Pita began her career writing for weekly newspapers, before moving onto speeches for accomplished business and political leaders, including U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly. For 17 years, she led one of the most successful marketing agencies in Connecticut, The Pita Group, as its founder, managing principal and chief strategist growing it to a $4.5 million business with 24 employees.

From May 2019 to March 2021, Kim served as the interim executive director of New England FIRST, a STEM-focused robotics organization delivering life-changing experiences to students in grades K-12, a role she has been in since May 2019. She initially joined NEFIRST in late 2017 as a marketing consultant. Kim has served in many non-profit leadership positions, including as board chair of Mental Health Connecticut since 2018 and on the Board of Directors of Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), Girl Scouts of Connecticut, Rebuilding Together Hartford, Hartford Children’s Theater and most recently Copper Beech Institute, a mindfulness center focused on healing our aching world.

She spent nine years writing Split Endz: A Tale of 2 Crazy Sisters, a memoir about her life transformation following the unfortunate passing of her younger sister from a drug overdose and mental illness. Kim recently relocated from Rocky Hill to Old Saybrook, Connecticut to find peace at the beach with her two teenagers.

Scott Heaton, New England Robotics & Logistics Director

Scott Heaton joined New England FIRST in September 2015, where he manages the warehouse and oversees logistics for the FIRST Robotics Competitions. He also serves as the key point of contact for all teams in New Hampshire and Vermont. Scott has served as co-char of the district events held in New Hampshire.

Prior to joining NE FIRST, Scott was a service manager with North Atlantic Power Products in Exeter, NH in charge of a multi-million-dollar service department. Scott is graduate of Kent State with a degree in aeronautical engineering.His role will be expanded in September 2020 as the director of robotics competitions and logistics across New England. Scott lives in Madbury, New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Stephan Rodriguez, Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager

Stephan Rodriguez recently joined as NE FIRST’s Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager. He previously worked for FIRST Headquarters in the same role before joining NE FIRST and comes to the team with a strong background in corporate social responsibility, entrepreneurship, non-profit management, and community engagement.

He previously served as an Alumni Manager for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and as State Director for national service organization ServiceNation.

Stephan is an alumni of AmeriCorps, having served two terms in City Year in New Hampshire and Miami, Florida. Stephan is passionate about community leadership, civic engagement, economic development, and media literacy. In his free time, Stephan enjoys traveling, art, music, reading, writing and spending time with family.

Stacey Gray, FIRST Senior Mentor (CT)

Stacey has been in marketing and business development for over 12 years. As the Business Development Manager at Take 2 Inc., a Certified Electronics Recycler in CT, she is responsible for developing growth strategies, maintaining client relations, writing business proposals and all other aspects of increasing business.

Additionally, Stacey owns Virtual Stacey, LLC. a Virtual Marketing Assistant business that helps clients to reach their full potential by improving and developing unique marketing strategies. Stacey became Connecticut’s FIRST Senior Mentor in 2015. She mentors two FRC teams 195 and 1071, one FLL JR team and is a founding member of the Wolcott Robotics Foundation. She has held multiple volunteer roles for events across FLL JR, FLL, FTC and FRC ranging from volunteer coordinator, committee member, judge and judge advisor. She has also served on several event planning committees.

Dana Henry, FIRST Senior Mentor (MA/RI)

Dana Henry has worked for Collins Aerospace, Division of Raytheon Technologies (formerly UTC) Space Systems for 38 years, building and inspecting life support systems for NASA and the US Navy, including the EMU (extravehicular mobility unit, the space suit), oxygen generation, water recycling and purification, cooling and gas management systems for the NASA Space Shuttle, International Space Station, Orion, Starliner and US Navy submarines. In 2002, Henry co-founded (and is Lead Mentor) Rosie Robotics, FRC 839, and in 2005 co-founded FTC 839 with the late John Burns.

Since then, Dana has expanded FIRST in all grade levels in Agawam, MA, founded the Agawam Robotics Education Association, Inc., a 501(c) (3) and currently serves as Pres/CEO. He has organized FLL state qualifying tournaments for 12 years and has been a FRC Championship Lead Robot Inspector for 5 years.

Dana is a member of the New England District Operations Committee and has also presented various training modules to teams around New England, on rookie FRC/FTC/FLL team start up, mentor training, veteran team sustainability, and how to shape local politics for the support of FIRST.

Ken St. Hilaire, FIRST Senior Mentor (NH)

Ken St. Hilaire is the FIRST Senior Mentor for New Hampshire. In this role, Ken is the primary field person who works closely with schools and FIRST teams across New Hampshire as they deliver the FIRST programs to students across grades K-12. Ken has more than 10 years serving as mentor for FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1073, and more than 16 years serving as leader in the Boy Scouts of America. Each of Ken’s three children are FIRST alums, and their education and career paths were shaped largely by their FIRST experiences.

Professionally, Ken is a veteran of multiple startup companies in the telecommunications and networking industries, with 35 years developing large scale software systems for companies like Sonus Networks (now Ribbon Communications), Affirmed Networks (acquired by Microsoft), and Oracle.

Steve Martin, FIRST Senior Mentor (ME)

Steve Martin has served as the senior mentor for Maine since June 2017. He was on the initial planning committee for the formation of the New England District in 2014. Steve has mentored hundreds of high school students in teamwork, mechanical design, CAD and sensors. He started as an FRC mentor in fall of 1999 when his younger daughter joined Team 58. He has provided support for all 26 Maine FRC teams: led mentoring meetings, coordinated communication among teams, assisted in the development of new teams and assessed support needs.

Steve has served as co-chair for FRC Pine Tree District Event since 2013. He has served as a board member of the Robotics Institute of Maine (RIM) since Jan 2018. RIM is the FIRST Lego League Partner for Maine. Steve retired Fairchild Semiconductor in 2015 where he served in many management roles, developed technology to support new products and led teams to resolve manufacturing and reliability issues with existing processes.

Steve Martin has served as the senior mentor for Maine since June 2017. He was on the initial planning committee for the formation of the New England District in 2014. Steve has mentored hundreds of high school students in teamwork, mechanical design, CAD and sensors. He started as an FRC mentor in fall of 1999 when his younger daughter joined Team 58. He has provided support for all 26 Maine FRC teams: led mentoring meetings, coordinated communication among teams, assisted in the development of new teams and assessed support needs.

Steve has served as co-chair for FRC Pine Tree District Event since 2013. He has served as a board member of the Robotics Institute of Maine (RIM) since Jan 2018. RIM is the FIRST Lego League Partner for Maine. Steve retired Fairchild Semiconductor in 2015 where he served in many management roles, developed technology to support new products and led teams to resolve manufacturing and reliability issues with existing processes.

Paige Patz, Marketing Intern

Paige Patz is excited to be working as New England FIRST's marketing intern. During her time as a student, she participated on teams 3182 and 3461, where she held positions pertaining to business and public relations. Her contributions led to 3182 being awarded the entrepreneurship award and a Dean's List nomination in her junior year. She has assisted over 15 teams across the United States ranging from FLL to FRC and she has also spoken at New England University Day to guide teams in creating their own business plans.

At NE FIRST, she will be a point of contact for student relations and social media management, handling NE FIRST's social media content and facilitating collaboration with other teams. Paige is well known in the community through her social media presence and she plans to confer with students to improve our communication with the FIRST community. Paige live in Newington, CT and will be attending Tunxis Community College in the fall before leaving for Florida in 2021.

Kayleigh Carmichall, Alumni Intern

Kayleigh Carmichall is an alumni of Team 195 The CyberKnights and is thrilled to be joining NE FIRST as an intern with alumni relations. She has been volunteering since 2016 in a variety of positions from ambassador to queuing in the on season and off season. While on Team 195 Kayleigh led the team as a Captain, Ambassador, Electrical Lead, and Youth Robotics Mentor Lead. She has given a sponsorship presentation at FIRST University Day in 2019 and will be participating again in the 2020 Virtual FIRST University Day.

Since graduating Kayleigh attended Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston where she studied Electromechanical Engineering for a year before discovering her passion for medicine. She then switched to Biomedical Engineering, until she learned of her opportunities at another school. She transferred to Stony Brook University where she will focus on a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. Kayleigh recently committed to mentoring Team 177 Bobcat Robotics. Kayleigh will be a point of contact for alumni outreach in New England. She is well known in the community from her time as a student and volunteer since 2016. She will be expanding the mentor network among alumni and finding new and creative ways to keep alumni connected to the FIRST program.

Screen Shot 2020-11-05 at 4.35.53 PM