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. Please contact any RPC member below if you have any questions about FIRST or the region’s activities.
Daphne Frownfelter, Regional Director, Pennsylvania, Chief State Advocate, FIRST
Daphne has been involved with FIRST for several years as an operational representative, working closely in Western PA with our FIRST Tech Challenge Program Delivery Partner. She has also mentored FIRST Robotics Competition teams and has been a volunteer at the FIRST Championship in St. Louis for many years. Daphne’s role as Regional Director is to support the Program Delivery Partners in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware, as well as direct the Greater Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Event in the Western & Central Pennsylvania Region. Daphne’s role as Chief State Advocate is to further develop relationships with key state government members, policy leaders, and staff who help us to continue the mission of FIRST.
Sarah Storck, Regional Planning Committee Chair
Sarah Storck is a software engineer in Pittsburgh. She started as a FIRST Robotics Competition student in 2005 and has since been involved with FRC and FIRST LEGO League as a mentor, event volunteer, and now planning committee member. Sarah wears many hats at events and has experience with FIRST Western and Central PA, the New England District Competition, and the Championship Event. Education access is something very important to Sarah and that’s part of why FIRST is so important to her.
If you are interested in joining the Regional Planning Committee, please reach out to Sarah at email@example.com.
Jason Mols, FIRST Senior Mentor
A man of few words… for now…
Shannon Plesh, Volunteer Coordinator
Shannon grew up in Pittsburgh, PA but currently resides in New Hampshire where she works in Enterprise Cyber Security. She’s been with FIRST in many capacities: team mentor, volunteer, and Regional Planning Committee. Although she wasn’t part of a team in high school, she feels very connected to the FIRST family. She’s even the ‘stock photo’ on the cover of the Referee Manual! Outside of FIRST, she is involved in her community through Toastmasters where she’s been on committees to plan free and accessible Youth Leadership workshops. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at FIRSTPittsburghVolunteers@gmail.com
Sarah Douglas, Judge Advisor
Sarah Douglas doesn’t remember the year she started with FIRST, but she remembers it was a long time ago. Sarah was leaving school (City High) on the last day before break and the Principal asked her if she would teach the robotics FIRST class the next semester. She said yes. Thus began a wonderful adventure. In a time of division and chaos, FIRST is calming and aimed to an achievable goal. The students think it is winning the game. The adults know it is team work, gracious professionalism and creativity. FIRST is how Sarah re-energizes for the year. “So much fun, such wonderful kids and adults. It is an emotional high and it keeps me moving forward.” According to FIRST records, Sarah has held variety of volunteer positions. According to Sarah, “The best is working with the Judges. They are all special friends, and this year I have missed them. Sometimes I wish that the kids and mentors really knew how hard this job is! Each team is visited and interviewed, and then the judges discuss, and debate, and review the award description with passion to find just the right team for that award. Sometimes this decision takes minutes and sometimes it takes days. One year, I went to judge a FIRST regional in Australia. What an adventure that was? This year I volunteered to judge in different states and look forward to doing that next year.”
Russ Smith, Judge Manager
Russ earned Chemical Engineering degrees from Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, followed by over three decades working in the chemical industry. This may explain his special interest in robots that have tubes. He has been involved in FIRST Western and Central PA and several other regionals since. Following his retirement several years ago, he has increased his involvement with FIRST and it has reaffirmed his belief that this program can provide excitement, motivation, and understanding in STEM.
Ben Matzke, Webmaster
Ben Matzke joined FIRST Western and Central PA in 2008 as a field volunteer and became the primary field supervisor every year since then. He has been a member of the Regional Planning committee since 2013 filling a variety of roles throughout his tenure and supporting the region in any way he is able.
Maggie Joseph, Associate Webmaster
Maggie Joseph has been involved with FIRST Western and Central Pennsylvania since 2006. She spent all four years of high school on Team 1708 – Amp’d Robotics, and after graduating in 2009, she has continued to stay involved as a volunteer. Maggie has filled various roles since 2009 but has lately been filling the role as a referee. She has been a Regional Planning Committee Member-At-Large for years, but has recently become more involved. You may find Maggie at kick-off events, off-season events, or generally assisting anywhere that she can. She is currently working as a Project Manager and Scrum Master for an IT software company.
Norm Kerman, Pit Admin Supervisor Extraordinaire
Norm graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh and retired from Duquesne Light Company after 37 years of service. In 1997, Duquesne Light was one of the sponsors of the Schenley High School FIRST Robotics team where he was a volunteer mentor. After leaving Duquesne Light, he taught one year at Schenley High School and then moved to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy as the Director of the summer RoboCamp for middle school students and assistant director of the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Competition where he helped grow the program from 32 local teams to over 70. Although he is no longer the Director of FLL, he still actively volunteers as a referee. When FIRST started the FIRST Robotics Competition in Pittsburgh, he was elected to, and served as, the first Volunteer Coordinator by a vote of 1-0 with one abstention (his own). Norm held the VC position for two years before moving to Pit Admin Supervisor and has tirelessly served in this position ever since. It is a position he absolutely loves: “I get to interact with all of the coaches and team members on a regular basis. I am world renowned for my intelligence, my extreme good looks, and my sense of humor.”
Ben Love, Information Administrator
Ben Love has volunteered with FIRST in 2016 (Stronghold) after a valued colleague talked him into it. Ben sees FIRST as a chance to do something different for a weekend…or more. He likes to see how innovative the teams can be and enjoys the overall fun of the event. Ben enjoys Site Reliability Engineering when he is not engaged with FIRST activities. Ben began his FIRST journey as Field Reset, then Field Tech Advisor Assistant. His new aspiration is to be the Field Manager of the next Regional Event. Ben’s calm and thoughtful approach to leadership are greatly welcomed on the field. He is a champion note taker ensuring our Committee Chair doesn’t become overwhelmed. Likewise, he keeps us organized and focused in Regional Planning Meetings.
Molly Urbina, Social Media Coordinator
Molly Urbina has been a part of the FIRST community as a student, mentor, and Regional Planning Committee member ever since she joined the Girls of Steel team #3504 back in 2012. While she pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering at a school in Chicago, she continued to mentor FIRST teams, joined the Midwest Regional Planning Committee, and served as the 2018 Chicago FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff Coordinator. After graduating in 2020, Molly has returned to the Pittsburgh region to work at a local robotics company and is excited to continue volunteering with FIRST Western and Central PA again.
Sarah Withee, Committee Member-At-Large
Sarah Withee is a polyglot software engineer, international public speaker, mentor, and hardware and robot tinkerer located in Pittsburgh, PA. She is passionate about the intersection of technology and people. She has been involved in the FIRST Robotics program since 2011 when she started mentoring two FIRST Lego League Challenge teams in her hometown of Kansas City, MO. Since then, she’s mentored a FIRST Tech Challenge team in KC, judged 5 FIRST Tech Challenge tournaments, moved to Pittsburgh, mentored a FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge team there, and joined the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Committee. You’ll see her frequently interrupted on Zoom calls by her two giant, extroverted, human-loving cat brothers.
These volunteers serve as Regional Planning Committee advisors/consultants. Many are FIRST alumni and/or have volunteered for FIRST for many years.