Meet FIRST Robotics Science Teacher Lisa Harding

By Dora Smith

Just before the FIRST Robotics Championship last week I sat down with Lisa Harding, a chemical engineer and science teacher at Westminster Christian Academy. Lisa has so much passion for her students, their school and the FIRST Robotics program, that it was hard to edit down our great conversation into to YouTube-sized soundbites. So here are three clips of our conversation discussing how they got started, how their team works, and how they won the Rookie All-Star award at the regional competition.

Lisa notes that the program brought out kids she didn’t know were interested in science. She says the team members are very diverse in their skills and talents. It’s part of the beauty of FIRST – it brings engineering and science together with art and business interests.

“This program bridged so many different areas of our school.”

Lisa says she knows it’s cliche to say it’s “life changing”, but it is:
“We’ve inspired people to consider engineering… It’s become more appealing… It’s certainly broken stereotypes about what engineering is… It’s become personal now and they’ve opened their minds to working at that as a potential future career.”

Lisa notes one of the things she loved about the program is how it bridges social, gender and class groups. Then at competitions, this went to the next level with cross-team collaboration. FIRST calls it CooperitionTM:
“displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.”

Lisa describes it this way:
“Teams were rushing to lend tools and not just tools but expertise… not only did you build a really good robot and come to the competition and perform well but you had that sense of being able to help other teams do the same.”

In this next video, Lisa talks specifically about the Rookie All-Star Award the team won at regionals.

As I mentioned in my post on team mentor Tim Terlouw, thank you to folks like Lisa and Tim who inspire students to consider careers in STEM. Even if you’re not ready for FIRST, you should try Lisa’s 101 ways to kill a peep with science to get young students engaged ;-). 

– Dora

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at