FIRST RGV is excited to announce that former NASA astronaut Michael Fossum will be keynote speaker for the non-profit’s robotics competition season kickoff with more than 900 students expected to be in attendance.
The kickoff takes place at Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen on Sept. 8.
The chief operating officer for Texas A&M and retired Air Force colonel is an appropriate choice to give the keynote address because this year’s theme for FIRST is Space. Fossum spent more than 193 days in space during his NASA career.
A Rio Grande Valley native, Fossum has an elementary school named for him in McAllen.
“We are excited that astronaut Fossum is able to come back to the Rio Grande Valley,” said Jason Arms, president of FIRST RGV. “Astronaut Fossum has been an inspiration to Valley students for years. He is a great illustration of what can be achieved when you pursue a career in STEM.”
Other guest speakers at the kickoff include Julian Alvarez, commissioner of labor for the Texas Workforce Commission, and Mario Lozoya, executive director of Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC). Like Fossum, Alvarez and Lozoya are Valley natives. The predecessor to GBIC in Brownsville, Brownsville EDC, brought SpaceX to the Valley.
School superintendents slated to attend the kickoff include J.A. Gonzalez of McAllen ISD, Art Cavazos of Harlingen CISD, and Narciso Garcia of Vanguard Academy. Various elected officials from the Valley are also expected to attend.
FIRST RGV was founded in 2015 and has already served more than 19,000 students. It has quickly become the fastest growing STEM program for the K-12 community encompassing more than 24 school districts from across the Valley.
“This year, we are projected to serve more than 5,000 students. We have teams from Roma to Brownsville,” Arms said
“FIRST is big in Texas and the Valley. Texas represents approximately ten percent of all FIRST robotics teams in the world. The Rio Grande Valley had four teams representing it in the FIRST World Championship last year.”
The kickoff event is free and open to the public.