Pittsburgh FIRST

Regional Planning Committee

The Regional Planning Committee (RPC) works to strengthen and support our local FIRST community, with a specific focus on the FIRST Robotics Competition program and the Greater Pittsburgh Regional competition tournament.

If you have any questions about FIRST or the region’s activities, please contact any RPC member below.

Patricia DePra, Regional Director - Western Central PAPatricia DePra, Regional Director – Western & Central PA

Patricia is a SW PA native with degrees from Juniata College (BS, Biochemistry) and Northwestern University (MS, PhD in Organic & Polymer Chemistry). Her experience includes industrial research, human resources & communications, management, college/university-level organic & biochemistry teaching (received tenure, Westfield State College, wrote textbook study guides), and science education grant management. Patricia’s home base is Pittsburgh, and the 2016-17 season will be her 8th as a FIRST Regional Director. Contact Patricia at pdepra@firstinspires.org.

Nick Winwood, FIRST Senior Mentor, Greater Pittsburgh / SW PA

Contact Nick at nwinwood@firstinspires.org. FIRST Senior Mentors (FSMs) are a group of highly skilled & talented, technical & non-technical individuals, who focus on recruiting, supporting, & expanding FIRST programs. They identify & recruit volunteers to be mentors, coaches, & event volunteers while supporting existing teams, mentors, & coaches. Click for more info

Duncan Campbell, Volunteer Coordinator

Contact our Volunteer Coordinator at FIRSTPittsburghVolunteers@gmail.com

Sarah DouglasSarah Douglas, Greater Pittsburgh Regional Judge Manager – FRC

Sarah Douglas began her FIRST adventure in 2005 as the advisor to team 1743, guiding them to become the Regional Champions and then onto the FIRST Championship in Atlanta. Sarah has served as a Pittsburgh Regional FRC Judge since 2007, and loves the spirit of gracious professionalism that FIRST brings to students. She is currently an Instructional Designer contractor working at the U.S. Department of Energy Lab, PIttsburgh site (South Park Twp).

Craig YankesCraig Yankes

Craig Yankes was introduced to FIRST as a volunteer at the 2013 Pittsburgh Robotics Competition where he staffed the spare parts desk.  By the end of the competition  he was so impressed by the event and the students that he joined the Regional Planning Committee.  Craig is a Technical Director for Management Science Associates where he designs and implements novel data storage and analytics algorithms. Also, he is in the St. Paul’s Cathedral (vocal) & Hand Bell Choirs and the Pittsburgh Diocesan Choir.

Ben Matzke

Sean McMahon

MJ Shaw

Committee Members-At-Large 

These volunteers serve as Regional Planning Committee advisors / consultants . Many are FIRST alumni, and/or have volunteered for FIRST for many years.

  • Ashleigh Arabia
  • Bill Bennett
  • Maggie Campagna
  • Sarah Storck
  • Kiersten Ehmann
  • Gabriel Goldman
  • Norm Kerman
  • Gene Kern (Previous FIRST Senior Mentor)
  • Laura Miller (Previous FIRST Senior Mentor)
  • Seth Peasley
  • Branden Plesh

Interested in volunteering for FIRST at the Regional level? If you’d like to be on the Regional Planning Committee, contact Patricia DePra, the Regional Director.

Committee Projects / Volunteer Opportunities 

The list below is intended to be a dynamic work-in-progress, highlighting current opportunities to lend a hand, whether it be a project or general category that needs leadership, to items that only need little bits of focused time here and there.

Our Regional Planning Committee members, as a whole, work together to discuss and offer help to anyone in a specific role.

Specific Projects: If you’d like to work on any part of the following, please send a quick note via our Contact Us page, and we’ll post here the # working on each project.

  • KICKOFF – January 7, 2017, at A.W. Beattie Career Center. KO planning committee now forming – contact us if you’d like to join!
  • Website Content (no coding):  Find any “usfirst.org” links on our website, and locate the correct “firstinspires.org” link. Send via the Contact Us page.  Recommend/submit new content.
  • Create a regional calendar that can be used to show team outreach activities. We’d like to be able to show where one could meet a FIRST team and learn more about FIRST throughout the year .
  • Media Coverage list on this website:
  1. Convert Excel spreadsheet to a table accessible via “Press Room” link on our home page.
  2. Locate media coverage of FIRST in our region (general and team coverage). Update a spreadsheet that is also accessible via our Media Coverage link (currently woefully outdated).
  3. 2017 Greater Pittsburgh Regional Media Package:  Help develop different components of the media package: 1) update press release from a template; 2) Compile Team Stories; 3)Update/choose FIRST general info 4) check team list for accuracy (typically finalized in early-mid January)
  • Update / check team lists on this website
  • Check / fill in website and/or social media links included in team information on this website
  • More to be added soon – stay tuned!

General Projects / Positions: 

  • Photo Archivist — Each year many photos are taken at Kickoff, the Regional Competition along with other local FIRST events.  This person’s role is to gather and select the photos that best exemplify the spirit of FIRST and organize their online presentation.
  • Assistant Volunteer Coordinator  — This position is to help the VC line up volunteers (emails to companies, posting on volunteer websites, etc.) and match the volunteers to the roles.  These positions involve work mostly from mid-October thru the end of the Regional.
  • Team Recruiting Task Force Leader —  This is a year-round position for a person interested in helping coordinate the team recruiting effort.  It involves little, if any, direct contact with teams but rather is an internal coordinating role that does not require hands-on FRC experience.
  • Special Events Coordinator —  This person will help find outreach opportunities at non-FIRST events and will coordinate our presence at those events such as staffing a table or having a team bring a demonstration robot.
  • Training and Workshop Coordinator — The person in this role helps to identify the common training topics needed by the teams in the region & coordinates workshop/s to fill those needs.  This position becomes active mostly in the early fall to early winter.
  • Public Relations/Media Coordinator — Love to tell people about FIRST?  The person in this role will prepare & distribute press releases to the media to keep the public informed about the Region’s events.  While year-round, most of the press releases will concern the major events: Workshops, Kickoff, and the Regional.
  • Public Relations/Media Coordinator/Social Media — This person also participates in writing press releases but has the additional focus of getting the word out via social media.
  • University / College / Higher-Ed Coordinator — Colleges and Universities want to recruit students who participate in FIRST and so the person in this role coordinates the School Recruiting event by inviting the admissions representatives during the fall and being their host at the Regional.
  • School/Team Development & Support — The person in this role is a resource to help established teams overcome problems they have run into such as funding, recruiting mentors, etc.  This position can be sporadically active throughout the year.
  • Sponsor Recruitment & Development — The Regional couldn’t exist without sponsors. This person helps to identify potential new sponsors, establishes relationships with them and seeks funding.  This is a year-round position.
  • Program Book Coordinator —  The program book distributed at the Regional contains information about the participating teams.  Besides being invaluable to the Judges, these books make wonderful keepsakes for the team members and friends. Timing: Dec – early Feb.
  • VIP Reception Coordinator  —  Many VIPs, including potential sponsors, politicians, school district administrators, and local businesses, come to the Regional.  The person in this position organizes a reception (such as a breakfast reception) for the VIPs, including speakers.
  • Assistant Website Maintainer  — This website is a key communication tool both to the public and to the teams in our region or attending our Regional.  This person assists the website maintainer by proactively keeping the website updated with information about upcoming events and the general “happenings” in the region,