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FIRST Chesapeake Chats


Click here to see the past Chat archive. 
Schedule: Thank you for watching this year’s chats and thank you to all our presenters and guests. The FIRST Chesapeake Chats will return in the 2023-2024 season! Updates will be posted as soon as new sessions are scheduled. 


Questions?  Email [email protected] or contact your Team Advisory Committee.

Archive of Past Chats


  • Thursday, April 2nd, 3:30pm – “Storytime: Meet the Head Ref Sponsored by Leidos.” Hosted by Ron Therrien, FIRST Chesapeake Programs Director.  Veteran FIRST Chesapeake Head Ref Steve Shade will answer questions about what it’s like to be a head ref, why he loves it, what he does as a paid job, and more. NOTE: Steve cannot discuss specific questions or rehash rules from past calls or talk about specific teams or situations. 
  • Thursday, October 15th, 6:00pm – “FRC Update.” Session will include FIRST Robotics Competition team registration, grants, event dates,  and event safety.
  • Thursday, October 15th, 6:30pm – “FTC Update.” Session will include FIRST Tech Challenge team registration, grants, event dates,  and event safety.
  • Thursday, November 5th, 6:00pm – Today’s Women in STEM Series Sponsored by Leidos. “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Canon Virginia Employees – Presented by Canon Virginia.” Hear what inspired them to explore the engineering field and what challenges they have faced as female engineers.
    • Featuring: 
      • Belinda Donavant, Sr. Director of Product Engineering
      • Linda “Lynn” Miller, Sr. Engineer, Advanced Continuous Improvement
      • Angie Coulton, Engineering Systems Specialist III, Product Engineering
      • Cynthia Popernack, Sr. Engineer, Advanced Continuous Improvement
  • Thursday, November 5th, 6:30pm – “Meet the FTC Head Referees.” FIRST Chesapeake Head Refs  will discuss what referees do and answer questions about the upcoming season.
  • Thursday, December 3rd, 6:00pm– Today’s Women in STEM Series Sponsored by Leidos. “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Leidos Employees.” Learn about what inspired these women to pursue STEM careers, what their day-to-day jobs look like, and what challenges they have overcome as leaders in their fields. 
    • Featuring: 
      • Regina Cer – Bioinformatics Division Chief
      • Quana Frost – Senior Security Systems Engineer
      • Tifani O’Brien – Chief Engineer, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
      • Kristina Holden, PhD – Human Factors Technical Fellow
  • Thursday, December 3rd, 6:30pm– “Learn Something New! How to Build Your FTC Engineering Portfolio.” Helpful advice about what to include.


  • Thursday, January 21st, 6:00pm – “Storytime: Team 2901 Purple Gears and Their FTC Onshape Parts Library.” Whether your team is completely new to CAD or has been modeling for years, come to learn about this incredible free service with over 4,500 components from several major vendors  (including Pitsco/Tetrix and AndyMark).” Moderated by Emma Holincheck, Alumni Ambassador.
  • Thursday, January 21st, 6:30pm – “Learn Something New! Virtual Presentation Tips for Teams.” Hear helpful advice for presenting your FTC or FRC team at virtual judge interviews.
    • Featuring Rohit Narayanan, Alumni Ambassador
  • Thursday, January 21st, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • Held every Thursday at 7pm.
    • At this first meeting we will update teams on match play as well as how to use the remote scoring system.
  • Thursday, January 28th, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • Held every Thursday at 7pm.
    • This meeting is for teams who will compete at: FTC Fulton MD 2, FTC Fairlawn VA 1, FTC Remote Event 1/25-1/31
  • Thursday, February 4th, 6:00pm – Today’s Women in STEM Series Sponsored by Leidos. “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Accenture Federal Employees.” 
    • Featuring:
      • Viveca Pavon-Harr – Analytics Manager
      • Johanna Jan – Analytics Associate Manager 
      • Danielle Russell – Business & Technology Delivery Analyst
  • Thursday, February 4th, 6:30pm – “Learn Something New! Remote Collaboration: Robot Programming During Hybrid Meetings.” How the Wizards.exe team conducts programming work with minimal in-person attendance.
    • Moderated by Mariah Bolden, Alumni Ambassador
  • Thursday, February 4th, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • Held every Thursday at 7pm.
    • This meeting is for teams who will compete at: FTC Fulton MD 3, FTC Shenandoah Caverns VA 1, FTC Colonial Heights VA 1, FTC Remote Event 2/08- 2/14
  • Thursday, February 11th, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • Held every Thursday at 7pm.
    • This meeting is for teams who will compete at: FTC Fulton MD 4, FTC Fairlawn VA 2
  • Thursday, February 18th, 6:00pm – “Learn Something New! Tips and Tricks for Making a Great Video.” Advice for FRC and FTC teams submitting videos in 2021.
    • Featuring Alex Hughes, Alumni Ambassador
  • Thursday, February 18th, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • Held every Thursday at 7pm.
    • This meeting is for teams who will compete at: FTC Fulton MD 5, FTC Shenandoah Caverns VA 2, FTC Colonial Heights VA 4
  • Thursday, February 25th, 7:00pm – “FTC Drivers Meeting.”
    • This meeting is for teams who will compete at: FTC North Championship, FTC South Championship

We thank all the guests who appeared in our “Today’s Women in STEM” broadcasts. 

We thank Leidos for helping to provide insights into career opportunities for our team members and recent alumni and for providing role models and inspiration for young women in STEM.

  • Thursday, March 18th, 6:30pm – “Cool Jobs – Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.” Featuring Abi Stark and Jessica Tye. Moderated by Mariah Bolden and Abbie Henshaw, Alumni Ambassadors.
    • Abi is currently a Regulatory Affairs Specialist with Polaris, Inc. Her background is in Industrial Engineering, and she is an alum of FRC Team 2199 from Eldersburg, MD. 
    • Jessica designs and develops biomedical electromagnetic devices such as bronchoscopes and cardiac ablation mapping catheters for a medical contract manufacturer.
  • Thursday, March 18th, 6:00pm – “Cool Jobs- Researching the Ecology and Evolution of Birds Using Machine Learning.” Featuring Laura Berman, Ph.D Candidate, Avian Evolution Lab, University of Singapore. Moderated by Mariah Bolden and Abbie Henshaw, Alumni Ambassadors.
    • Laura’s interests are in vertebrate ecology and conservation, and she has traveled the world in pursuit of her passion. She has previously worked with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and US Geological Service.
  • Thursday, November 4th, 6:00pm – “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Qualcomm Employees Joy Cho and Erica Ciaraldi.”  Join FIRST Alumni and Engineer at Product Test and Tools Development, Joy Cho, and Erica Ciaraldi, MPH, Qualcomm Global Corporate Responsibility, for an informal discussion about their careers and their cool jobs. 
  • Joy participated on FIRST Team 2537 Space RAIDers (Columbia, MD) from 2014-2016, and then returned to volunteer in a number of different roles. She describes her experience with FIRST as “eye opening” because it introduced her to her “career path and so many amazing people”. Joy works in the Product Test and Tools team, developing tests to stress the company product – semiconductor chips. In short, she tries to break her device as much as possible to find fixes for her job!

    Erica has almost a decade of experience working in the public, government, corporate and academic sectors. She has managed and monitored programs for social good across five continents and is currently involved with Qualcomm Wireless Reach, their Tech for Good initiative, that focuses on the positive difference wireless technology can make in the lives of people around the world. 

    Join these outstanding Women in STEM to learn more about the impact STEM education has made in their lives and how they are working to pay it forward.

  • Thursday, November 4th, 6:30pm – “Judge Advisor Chat with FIRST Chesapeake’s Senior Judge Advisors Joe Bouchard and Jeff Meyers.” Discussion about presentations, engineering portfolio, and making the most out of your time with the judges.
  • Thursday, December 2nd, 6:00pm – “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Leidos Employees Thomas Bayhi (Smart Mobility Liaison), Michael McConnell (Software Engineer), and Kelsey Scholl (Cyber Security Operations Mobility Leader).” Moderated by Anika Seth, Alumni Ambassador. Join them for an informal discussion about their careers and their cool jobs.
    • Thomas Bayhi is a FIRST alum from Team 1671 in Clovis, California who went from writing Chairman’s award applications to a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. Using experience conducting outreach and marketing efforts for technical projects that he gained through FIRST and other STEM programs, Thomas has made a career out of helping to bring technical efforts together between engineers and their stakeholders in a variety of industries including cybersecurity and vehicle automation.
    • Michael McConnell is a FIRST alum from Team 486 in Pennsylvania and has volunteered with team 5549 in Fairfax County Virginia. Using the teamwork and technical skills developed at FIRST he obtained a degree in Robotics Engineering. He now conducts research and development on cooperative vehicle automation at a lab in northern Virginia as the vehicle sensing and perception lead.  
    • Kelsey Scholl leads a team of people who are specialized in monitoring threats for mobile devices, such as iOS and Android devices. They search for new threats, analyze the data they have, and report any threats that they find. While the team is working on the day-to-day tasks, Kelsey is looking for new ways for them to improve their monitoring and security reporting. To sum it up, they are a team of cyber security mobile device detectives! 
  • Thursday, December 2nd, 6:30pm – “Learn About FIRST Chesapeake’s GearedUp Remote Robotics Program with DaVell Smith, Assistant Principal at Martin Luther King, Jr, Middle School, and Lee Reid, GearedUp Instructor.” Moderated by Anika Seth, Alumni Ambassador. Hear about our weekly modules that can function as a standalone classroom resource or after-school program to enhance STEM learning.
    • In addition to being the 6th grade assistant principal at MLK, DaVell Smith also leads the school’s  STEM Academy. “I believe that STEM can be integrated to give our scholars 21st-century skills needed to be lifelong learners and, more importantly, successful contributors to society.” Mr. Smith has been integral in bringing the GearedUp remote robotics program into his school for the past 2 years.
    • Lee Reid graduated from VCU in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and has spent most of the time since then writing educational curriculum and teaching STEM programs. He is also a FIRST Alum from FRC team 3136 and has volunteered at numerous FRC and FTC events. “I think [Geared Up] does a very good job of covering most of the basics students need to know to build a robot and to get them excited to continue and learn more!”
  • Thursday, January 6th, 2022 6:00pm – “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Booz Allen Hamilton employees Cedric Sims, Chantal Murdock, and Annaliese Cunniffe.” Moderated by Anika Seth, Alumni Ambassador. Join them for an informal discussion about their careers and their cool jobs.
    • Dr. Cedric Sims is a senior leader within Booz Allen’s Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation business. Cedric develops strategies to foster integration across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and delivers expertise, primarily cyber and analytics, to support complex missions. He has more than 25 years of experience in acquisitions and risk management, cybersecurity, capital planning, portfolio and program governance, and systems engineering applied to homeland security missions. Cedric is also an FRC mentor and FIRSTChesapeake board member.
    • Chantal is a Lead Robotics Engineer within Booz Allen’s Strategic Innovation Group.  Currently Chantal is developing software to help Booz Allen’s clients use robots and artificial intelligence within their teams.  Chantal earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Old Dominion University and previously interned at NASA Headquarters and at Booz Allen’s Summer Games program.
    • Annaliese is a Mechanical Engineer within Booz Allen’s Defense Group.  Annaliese is designing, testing, and qualifying mechanical components of a complex military protection system for Booz Allen’s defense clients.  Additionally, Annaliese designs and integrates electro-mechanical payloads on Booz Allen’s robots.  Annaliese earned her Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and previously interned at Booz Allen’s Summer Games program.
  • Thursday, January 20th, 6:00pm – “Surviving Inspection: Building the Robot You Know Will Pass, and Tips from FRC Inspectors.” Kate McBryan (CHS Lead Robot Inspector) will be on hand to share helpful advice.
  • Thursday, January 20th, 6:30pm – “Scouting 2022: How Will Single Day FRC Events Play Out?” Featuring Daniel Pedersen, MRA Facilitator and Mentor for FRC 449 Blair Robot Project, aka “Flag Dad,” and FRC 449 mentors Caitlin King and Yoni Pedersen. The panel will describe the scouting process, what they look for and how they use it for planning. Then they will discuss the challenges posed by remote viewing and limited attendance, and the impact caused by the change to single-day events.
    • Caitlin King imported a scouting system from the Pacific Northwest and guided FRC 449 students to implement it successfully.
    • Yoni Pedersen coached the strategy group and the drive team on using Scouting data to understand the capabilities of other teams, plan match strategies with alliance partners, and guide alliance lobbying and selection. 
  • Thursday, February 3rd, 6:00pm – “Cool Jobs: Discussion with Dominion Energy employees Charlene Whitfield, Cathy Grady, and Chauncie Dallas.” Moderated by Anika Seth, Alumni Ambassador. Join them for an informal discussion about their careers and their cool jobs.
    • Charlene Whitfield is a Senior Vice President with Dominion Energy.
    • Catherine “Cathy” Grady is a Manager of the Nuclear Site Services Department at Surry Nuclear Power Station; her team implements large (and sometimes small) capital construction projects that improve the station’s reliability, health, or efficiency. Her team provides a diverse group of craft workers and leaders to implement the projects including electricians, welders, carpenters, ironworkers, and heavy equipment operators.
    • Chauncie Dallas is an Electric T&D (Transmission or Distribution) Projects Manager. Specifically he work in the Rural Broadband Program where they are in a position to help to the bridge the technological gap within their service territory. Dominion Energy has an impact on the communities they serve by helping underserved customers obtain the broadband internet needed to participate in many necessary online services from attending school online to online Dr. appointments.
  •  Thursday, November 10th, 6:30pm – “FTC Referee Online Q&A.” Join FIRST Tech Challenge referees for a question and answer session.