Tech Garage | ABOUT US
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Meet the STEM HQ Team!

Karen Kough

is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where she earned an MBA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems. She also has Bachelor’s degree in Economics & Management Studies from the University of the West Indies. Karen is a certified Human Resources professional with over 10 years of experience specializing in Human Resources Information Systems and optimization of business processes. From a family of teachers, she spent her formative years watching her parents make strides in reducing adult illiteracy. This has fueled a passion in her to connect with and provide support to under-served communities. Karen’s mission is to ensure that at-risk children have the opportunity to be introduced to, and learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts and skills at an early age. Those opportunities will enable the children to make more informed choices in middle and high school – choices that will pave the way and impact college choices and career opportunities. In addition to promoting STEM in under-served communities she has a passion for ensuring that these children understand they all have positive roles to play in society and that they understand the path they’ll need to follow to be successful.

Homer Floyd Willis IV “Scooter”

has been active with FIRST robotics for 15+ years and has helped start three different high school robotics teams competing in FIRST. He understands the importance of mentoring and what exposing students to the field of engineering can do to inspire a young mind. When he was in high school he participated in a mentoring program that found an engineer from the community to help answer questions about using a computer to turn on and off motors to build a robot. The mentor gave an unbelievable amount of time to answer many silly questions that soon became more complex. The robotic control system that was developed was entered into the High School Science Fair and placed 3rd in Engineering at the International Science and Engineering Fair. Scooter attended the University of Florida to major in Electrical Engineering, was elected Student Body President in 1989 and went on to earn a Bachelors of Electrical Engineering, an MBA, Masters in Computer Science and a PhD in Computer Engineering. Scooter is the Director of Computational Biology for Avera Cancer Institute working with large clinical trial data sets to identify genomic markers that are predictive of treatment benefit and prognostic of outcome in Cancer. Scooter is married to Karen Krumholtz the Executive Director of the Schmidt Family Foundation. Their son Devin attends FAU high school and has competed in First Lego League, FTC, and FRC.  Scooter is fully committed to establishing programs that get elementary and middle school students excited about learning through competitive robotics.

Frank Dickinson

has been serving as CTO for AffinityX, the leading creative and marketing services partner for companies that serve SMBs, since 2005. Frank, a Florida native, holds a B.S. in Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Frank has decades of hands-on experience leading the development of complex software and integrating disparate technologies across global organizations. Most recently, Frank has been instrumental in building and maintaining cloud-based solutions that process millions of creative orders per year. Frank and his wife Debra (Chef Deb), have 3 children, Carleigh, Gillian and Aidan. The family has been actively involved in STEM-related activities since the kids were in elementary school. Aidan has been involved with FLL and FTC since 2014. Carleigh officially joined the FTC  team in 2016 and captained the TechGarage FRC team in 2018.

Vladimir Safin

is a graduate of Yaroslavl State University in Russia. When he was 21 years old he earned his Master of Science degree in Applied Mathematics.  After moving to the United States in 1998 he has held senior technology positions at several companies before starting his own consulting business. Vladimir specializes in software design and development and was involved in several successful technology start-ups. He lives in Delray Beach Florida with his wife Gloria and four children. Three of his children attended Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach and the past 3 years Vladimir been mentoring school’s Robotics team and Programming club.  He enjoys working with students and fully committed to making Tech Garage vision reality. /vc_column_text]

Christian Liautaud

is a University of Florida graduate in Electrical Engineering. He specializes in Integrated Circuits design and embedded systems. Some of his latest work can be found inside the main processors of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. He’s been coaching in the First robotics competition for the past two years, and enjoys mentoring kids to become technology leaders. His son Nick and Daughter Sophia started by competing in the FIRST Lego League and Nick was on the 2018 FRC team.  Christian has been known to take his family on vacation to watch the FIRST World Championship. 

Alicia Rootes

is a marketing professional who throughout her career has focused on helping nonprofits reach their full potential. As Senior Project Director for The Winfield Group of Atlanta, she traveled extensively throughout the Southeastern U.S., training boards and staff of nonprofits specializing in arts, education, science and technology, the environment, sports and recreation, medical research and youth development. As the mother of two, she also dedicated herself avocationally to the neighborhood elementary school in Savannah, Georgia. Together with the designated Science teacher, and partnering with Georgia Tech – Savannah, Alicia pioneered two robotics programs at the school. She has been involved with FLL for two years with her son, Thomas. Alicia holds a BA from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. She taught Marketing and Market Research at SNHU./vc_column_text]

Michael Weir

has been working in the Automation and Robotics Industry for 20+ years. He has provided automated solutions in industries such as defense, retail, networking, semiconductor, software, and automotive. Many of this roles include leading teams of automation developers in creating systematic solutions for entire companies such as Nortel Networks, Texas Instruments, General Electric and UTC. Michael has a BSEE from Kettering University and an MSEE from the University of Michigan. He holds several certifications such as Certified LabVIEW Architect, Certified TestStand Developer and Certified Professional Instructor. Michael vividly recalls his first introduction to computers (a Commodore PET) from his 5th grade teacher, which sparked his passion for science and technology. He enjoys lighting the same spark in younger generations through several efforts, including volunteer efforts with FIRST Lego League and hosting student sessions during Take Your Child TO Work Day events. Michael serves as an Adjunct Professor at Florida Atlantic University, travels to teach courses professionally, serves as the Automation Manager for Office Depot Ecommerce applications and websites and is the owner and architect of www.agile-test.com.
As a founder and coach of Boca Amateur Athletics, a 501c3 which serves the youth community with athletic venues, Michael has witnessed how organized youth activity can benefit young minds. He seeks to stretch that concept to include science and technology based learning. Understanding that balance is the key to excellence, he is teaming with the folks at STEM HQ to provide an organized venue and opportunity for young minds to catch the “first spark” of science and innovation.

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