Who would you like to see speak at a FIRST event?

**Who would you like to see speak at a FIRST event and why? **

We’ve had a lot of cool people - the most recent being Google’s Larry Page - and after digging through the forums, I’m surprised that this has not been discussed yet.

Would you choose someone more non-technical mainstream (like Will Smith’s video message from somewhere around the 2001 season: “Build more robots so I can play with my kids!”), or someone in the technical mainstream (either on the corporate side like Larry Page, or on the entertainment side such as Mythbusters’ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman)? Or, would you rather have it be someone that’s not mainstream at all (something along the lines of having an engineer who worked on an exciting project speak)?

My brainstorm for this thread came last night while watching Good Eats, when I decided that Alton Brown would be a fabulous speaker. Not only is he an Atlanta native (and would probably be pretty entertaining), but he’s using a love for science to create a different type of cooking show. But, that’s just me.

good question.

Im trying to think of an engineer or technology company leader who has made a big impact in the last few years, and I cant come up with any names.

Isnt that interesting?

I can think of obvious technology leaders from the past, like the Woz, Ken Olsen, and people like Bob Pease

but Im drawing a blank for someone contemporary!

EDIT: ok, I got one: Burt Rutan !

Some people off the top of my head:
Burt Rutan - SpaceshipOne, Air Force, etc.
Aubrey de Grey - Very interesting guy. He he does a lot of research on the human life span and genetics.

Basically, anyone off this list. They’re all leaders in their field and would probably have some interesting things to say

Good question Jess.

This person would need to be both inspiring and famous, as former speakers have been. We have had Dan Goldin (2001?), Jeff Bezos (2002), Chuck Yeager (2003), and Larry Page (2005) recently. Each were inspiring in their own right. While I preferred Yeager’s speech, Page and Bezos may relate better to the students. It is also good to have a speaker who is not a hugely controversial figure. However, people at that level all have detractors to some extent.

In no particular order, here are some candidates:

  1. Burt Rutan would be excellent for 2 reasons: 1. His recent accomplishments with Space Ship One are inspiring because of his innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. ** 2. He attended the 1992 US FIRST competition and served as a judge**. (Jeff & Ken beat me to this one, but he is my first choice)

  2. Roger Penske is an inspiring figure, although controversial in the racing community. His business and corporate ties are immense, he has a competitive spirit, and his cars lead the way in innovation. He is unique in the fact that he is powerful in both the corporate and competitive sports worlds.

  3. Meg Whitman, ebay CEO, leads an innovative company that has changed the way people buy and sell things along with how small companies operate. She would definitely be inspiring and she is in the same field as Bezos and Page.

  4. Rick Wagoner, GM CEO, could talk about technology development at GM, highlighting the Hydrogen fuel cell platform and hybrid technologies. He is a no-nonsense-type speaker, but he is also a controversial leader since GM has many “issues” to deal with these days.

  5. Former Presidents Clinton and Bush (41) have done much globe-trotting during the past few years to help raise money for relief efforts. Either one would be welcome to talk about “what the world needs” with regard to innovative solutions to energy issues, world hunger, disease cure & control, and other major issues. They could help inspire students to fix these problems. Either would be inspiring to the audience, as long as they keep away from partisan politics. Plus, these two have both given attention to FIRST in the past by inviting winning and Chairman’s Award teams to the White House.

There are many more, and I am eager to hear other ideas.

Andy B.

  1. Neil Armstrong - I would love to hear him speak. If we are ever going to send people to Mars we will need a lot of creative thinking people on the team. Mr. Armstrong probably has some experience with that sort of project I would think.

  2. Burt Rutan - I think he defines thinking outside the box. Hmm, 3rd vote for Burt. I wonder if we get enough vote if FIRST can make it happen.

How about Richard Branson? He is a very successful person that has done things in a slightly different way than the mainstream. He’s also big into new technology and has been helping to fund Burt Rutans latest projects.

Jack Welch


Anyone dynamic who can get a strong message across in UNDER 10 minutes :smiley: . Seriously, I love the people that we’ve had at the podium in the past, but FIRST is a very upbeat/fast-paced event and a solid, but brief inspiring message to me is the best kind.

Well, uh, Steve Jobs!

I second that thought!
I love watching Alton Brown and think he’d be sure to give an upbeat quirky speech!
And not for any political reasons, but because I think his story is an interesting one (and he’s an alum from my high school), Virginia Governor Mark Warner. He was a co-founder of Nextel and is a supporter of technology education.

Linus Torvalds, leader of the Linux revolution.

Adam Savage would be really neat.

Alton Brown is an incredible host/speaker he’d be pretty cool too.

Scott Jones (bio) gets my vote. You can check out his entry in the upcoming DARPA Grand Challenge here. Scott has many similarities to Dean Kamen in that he is interested in utilizing technology and innovation to better people’s lives.

I’d like one of the Mythbusters to speak. Steve Jobs and Richard Branson also top my list.

Burt Rutan would be interesting, but I’m thinking about the entire FIRST community, and getting more people drawn into the FIRST Sphere of Influence.

When I was a kid, it would have been Don Herbert (a.k.a. Mr. Wizard)
In the 90’s it would have been Bill Nye the Science Guy
And today, I gotta think it’s The Mythbusters. Clever show, interesting, fun, and I don’t know how many times I hear people talking about them in a positive light.

Considering Hyneman’s previous involvement in Battlebots, I think it would speak volumes if he were to command the podium (especially, perhaps, to speak of the differences and the educational value of our program?). The probability of it happening, I don’t know. Even if he were to talk about M5, I think most of the students would find it more riveting than some past speakers.

Entertainment stars come and go. Very few high school students could tell you who Jean Harlow is, or what color hair Marlene Dietrich had. Most kids nowadays don’t know Twiggy from Ashlee Simpson. However, they can readily recognize images of Einstein. That tells me a lot.

No offense to Will Smith, but as a senior in high school (and not even interested in anything technical), I found his ‘speech’ a laughingstock. Essentially, it said to me, ‘Although I’ve found a career where I don’t necessarily need to have a degree in quantum physics, you smart kids should keep going along this path so that I can live up the life.’ Insulting? A little.

I’m more interested in the invention of voicemail, the dot com revolution, and the creation of a new computer generation than another pretty face. Bring on the Bezos, Page, Jobs, Rutan, and Jones generation of inspirational speakers.

FIRST people who’ve “made it.” I’d like to see someone who participated in FIRST in high school and about how they have become an awesome engineer or scientist.

This could be a speed speech lasting just under two minutes. It lets the kids in high school know that if they stick with this program good stuff will happen to them.

CMU’s Red Whittaker. If you don’t know who he is, you should find out. If you haven’t heard him speak, you should find a way. If you don’t know what he has to say, you should read this. After you do, you will understand why he would be a perfect FIRST speaker.


Mythbusters, hands down.

Considering Hyneman’s previous involvement in Battlebots, I think it would speak volumes if he were to command the podium (especially, perhaps, to speak of the differences and the educational value of our program?). The probability of it happening, I don’t know. Even if he were to talk about M5, I think most of the students would find it more riveting than some past speakers.

Well considering the fact that Grant Imahara actually mentored a team, it’s probably not that far fetched of a plan.