“I did a few years of
engineering for a multinational chemicals
company. When they
had to close down the
branch where I was, I
found myself using my
as a project manager
for the local education
authority. That led me to
get involved in the STEM
I’d spent several years
managing STEM projects for schools when I came across the FIRST LEGO
League (FLL) competition.
FLL is an international robotics program for 9- to 16-year-olds. It’s one
of the largest STEM competitions in the world, with over 80 countries
involved. LEGO and its U.S. partner, FIRST—which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”—look for operational
partners to manage the competition locally in countries around the world.
FLL had been going on in the United Kingdom since 2001, and in 2012
LEGO approached the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
about taking over as operational partner. IET took on FLL as a project and
hired me as project manager.
It’s my job to embed this project within the IET to move it forward. That
requires managing quite a lot of risk in terms of making sure we have the
proper funding, the right support network and executive sponsorship. We
have about 450 teams that compete in FLL at regional tournaments across
the country. I have to manage teams’ expectations and work with academic
and corporate partners to not only host tournaments on our behalf, but also
involve their scientists and engineers as mentors and judges.
The FIRST LEGO League