The MN Robotics Competition Program are led by two passionate State Coordinators with guidance from an advisory group made up of local business leaders. Keep reading to learn a bit more about each of them.
OUR STATE COORDINATORS
I'M AARON BARKER
Title: Interim Dean of Trades & Industry / Energy & Electronics Instructor, St. Cloud Technical & Community College
Colleagues know Aaron as a dedicated and enthusiastic individual with a passion for teaching and the ability to think outside the box. When Aaron became the head of the electronics program at St. Cloud Technical & Community College in 2009, the program's existence was being threatened by very low enrollment. Since then, he has been the driving force for the success of the program and has played a major role in the development of other new programs at SCTCC.
Aaron was instrumental in helping SCTCC partner with Xcel Energy in 2010 to develop the Nuclear Technician Program. The program is designed to prepare graduates for work as Nuclear Plant Maintenance Technicians. The nuclear track is the newest addition to SCTCC's current catalog of energy tracks: wind power, ethanol, bio-diesel, solar power, and fossil fuel energy production.
In 2020, Aaron was named the 2020 CMMA Collaborator of the Year by the Central Minnesota Manufacturers Association.
When not teaching, he is also actively involved in volunteering his time to students outside of SCTCC.
I'M ANDREW DAHLEN
Title: Manufacturing Process Technology Instructor, Northland Community & Technical College
Before entering higher education, Andrew worked as a manufacturing engineer designing automated machinery for the manufacturing of composite window and door components. He also developed and improved processes for the manufacturing of computer hard-drive components and medical devices. As an instructor at Northland, Andrew teaches a variety of automation and electronic topics including; robotics, PLC programming, microcontroller programming, solid modeling, motor controls, sensors, analog circuits, hydraulics, and pneumatics.
Andrew promotes STEM education throughout the region as a coordinator of the VEX Robotics Competition, and leads robotics camps and robotics workshops for area youth and high school instructors. Recently, he has been retooling Northland’s Mechatronics Program for Competency-Based Education delivery.
OUR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS
I'M JOE FRANCIS
Joe Francis is 3rd generation owner of Central McGowan--founded in 1947 and purchased in 1954 by his Grandfather, Leo Henkemeyer. He is passionate about, an advocate for, and a supporter of automation and robotics. Under his leadership, Central McGowan has been Platinum sponsor of the MN Robotics Competition Program for three years. Joe believes its mission is instrumental in building the next generation of STEM workers, empowering STEM educators, and filling the skilled workforce gap that exists today and in the future. In addition to supporting MN Robotics Competition Program & First Robotics, the company's automation team also actively seeks out ways to be a resource for youth interested in learning more about careers in automation and robotics.
I'M GREG FLINT
Greg Flint is the President/Chief Operating Officer at Coldspring. He currently serves as an active member of the MN Robotics Competition Program Executive Committee, having been engaged in the program since its inception. Greg’s passion and involvement are driven by an awareness of the shortage of STEM fields. Under his leadership, Coldspring is a Platinum sponsor of the MN Robotics Competition Program. He believes the VEX platform gives companies like his the opportunity to engage with students as potential future employees, their parents, and their schools. By doing this Coldspring has opened doors at local schools to pursue the various ways to collaborate together in developing future talent. Greg also serves as a board member for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations.
I'M JOAN SCHATZ
Joan Schatz is Co-President of Park Industries and a passionate supporter of the MN Robotics Competition Program both professionally and personally. Joan sees VEX Robotics as key to building the workforce her business, this region, and our nation needs. Through Joan’s leadership, Park Industries is a Platinum Sponsor of the MN Robotics Competition Program and, through her work as Vice Chair of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation and Co-Chair of its Talent Strategy Imperative, she is also a member of the program's Executive Committee. Joan’s son was a VEX team member for five years, and her husband still coaches three VEX teams. Joan also boasts about the full-sized VEX competition field she has in her basement! .