#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Kenny

Kenny is the Director of STEAM Innovation at The Avery Coonley School and is a FIRST® alum from FIRST® Tech Challenge Team 8728 “Bionic Wolves.” He works with students, families and teachers to elevate STEAM in classrooms by designing and creating “teacher gadgets” and “educational enhancers” to give students the best in-classroom experience. Kenny’s goal is to help students work on projects that make a positive impact in the world. When asked about the potential for youth to make an impact, he said: Don't ignore how powerful young people can be. Even though they might be younger, they have great energy, ideas, and passion. Their fresh perspectives can bring new and exciting changes to the world.”

Learn more about Kenny and how he is inspiring students through STEAM below.


FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job? 

Kenny: The hardest part of my work is not having enough time. Directors have many tasks, like overseeing and implementing STEAM to students. To handle it all, you need to learn to share tasks, focus on important things, manage time wisely, and use helpful tools. It takes time to learn and keep everything in balance.


FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life? 

Kenny: As Director of STEAM, I use STEAM skills every day in my work/life. I always begin with empathy because it’s very important to understand and care about how others feel and understanding the viewpoints around you. You need to identify the challenges and successes of everyone around you so then you can find a path to success.  Also, empathy means listening to others and considering their feelings, which leads to good communication and teamwork.


FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?

Kenny: My work with students is recognized by Chicago Sun-Times, CBS, and more. As a TEDx organizer, I had the honor of organizing a recent TED event at the Avery Coonley School where we had one of the world’s youngest TEDx speakers (4 years old) talk about building big dreams. We are so proud of our students showcasing the intersection between the mission of the Avery Coonley school and TEDx. Don't ignore how powerful young people can be. Even though they might be younger, they have great energy, ideas, and passion. Their fresh perspectives can bring new and exciting changes to the world. Our students, regardless of age, have unique strengths and can make a big impact. So, it's important to listen to them, support their ideas, and let them be part of making things better for everyone. 


FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?

Kenny: Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST. a difficult time during my early years as a young student being told, “I’m not smart enough”, being held back and placed into special classes because I wasn’t at the same level as my peers. Just like Dean Kamen, we came up with new ways to do things and our creativity translated into a career in innovations. We learned that we can use our learning differences as strengths and find ways to excel. 

kenny and dean

FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? 

Kenny: I would tell myself: you are destined to be a GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and will become something very special. The key to being a GOAT is to follow these steps: 1) Grind, meaning to work hard 2) Overcome 3) Adapt and 4) Triumph.  Life is about progression and not perfection. Don’t give up too easily and always persevere. Don’t be a thermometer but strive to be a thermostat. Set the bar high and keep going higher. You can do it!


FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?

Kenny: You've got what it takes to overcome anything – tough problems, personal stuff, whatever. In the amazing FIRST community, we're not just about robots, we're about building ourselves and each other up. So, no matter who you are or what hurdles you face, remember this: You're destined for greatness. Your unique ideas and passions matter here. Embrace challenges, learn from them, and know that as you navigate this journey, you're not just building robots; you're becoming someone awesome.


Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at marketing@firstinspires.org.