Inspired to make a difference Inspired to make a difference

Meet the people behind the ‘bots.

We are a group of people with vastly different experience and expertise. When we’re not in awe of all that our students have created and accomplished, we’re busy doing one thing: fueling their love of robotics with the support of an entire community.

Our Team

Daryl Davidson
Daryl Davidson
President & CEO

The Head Human.

Having overseen RoboNation since the beginning, Daryl blends RoboNation’s history with new industry trends and always a splash of fun. When he’s not throwing out his next big idea, he is sure to be spreading laughter with one of his legendary dad jokes.

Lindsey Groark
Lindsey Groark
Vice President of Programs

The Mastermind of Initiative.

As soon as she became part of the RoboNation team, Lindsey hit the ground running. First, fostering a strong STEM community; second, bringing advancements to the early education programs; to now, leading the charge to bring advancements to all the RoboNation programs. To get all her energy, Lindsey enjoys a large cup of iced coffee and a lot of teamwork.

Cheri Koch
Cheri Koch
Senior Events Manager

The Experience Orchestrator.

Dedicated to improving the experience for each and every attendee at each event, Cheri has been organizing RoboNation events for over 8 years. If you have been to any RoboNation event, you’ll know Cheri goes above and beyond to create extraordinary experiences. When she’s not answering to Cheri, she’ll also answer to RoboMom.

Julianna Smith
Julianna Smith
Program Manager

The Multitasker.

The role Julianna has played on the RoboNation team has evolved from event support, communications and design, to her newest challenge: growing the RoboBoat, RoboSub and RobotX programs. Julianna enjoys absorbing ideas from community members, colleagues and stakeholders to map out a game plan. When Julianna isn’t collecting new ideas, she enjoys traveling to new places and hanging out with four-legged furry friends.

Cheryl Hedeen
Cheryl Hedeen
Program Manager

The Thought Instigator.

After being involved with the SeaPerch community for well over 5 years, Cheryl came to RoboNation to continue shaping the communities across SeaPerch. Cheryl’s newest initiative is collaborating with education and research specialists, to enhance the SeaPerch and GoSense programs. Not only does she bring thoughtfulness and insight into each workday, Cheryl will always impress with an unbeatable skill for having the best sayings for every situation.

David Young
David Young
Product Manager

The Master Tinkerer.

After completing a Naval engineering career, David has retired to a job of designing and tinkering products here at RoboNation. Always looking for ways to improve the SeaPerch and SeaGlide kits, David often works faster than any of us can keep up with. Between thinking up new product add-ons, you can find him testing a modified SeaPerch in his pool or out taking a run.

Laverne Imori
Laverne Imori
Community Engagement Coordinator

The Engagement Ninja.

From customer support to community engagement, Laverne’s top priority at RoboNation has always been meeting your needs. Shifting her focus to the postsecondary community, Laverne jumps at any opportunity to connect and find new ways to support the needs of the community. You’ll never be disappointed by the work or stealth Laverne brings to the table.

Our Board of Directors

John Waickwicz
John Waickwicz
Vice Chair | Rite-Solutions

John J. Waickwicz, Rear Admiral, USN (ret)

Rear Admiral John J. Waickwicz is a native of Spencer, Mass, and a 1974 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation he attended flight school earning his Wings of Gold. During a distinguished carrier he also earned his Surface Warfare Qualification and had eleven Command tours. Besides the Command tours his shore tours were with the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Headquarters and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

In April 2004, RADM Waickwicz stood up command of the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Command in San Diego. On Oct. 1, 2006, he executed the merger between Fleet ASW Command and Mine Warfare Command. Retiring from the service in 2008, he became a Senior Vice President with Alion Science & Technology. He is currently fully retired.

 

His personal awards and decorations include a Knighthood with the Knight Commander’s Cross with Star of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon presented by the President of Iceland, the American Legion Aviation Valor Award, two Defense Superior Service Medals, three Legion of Merit Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal (Individual Action), five Navy Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and numerous service and campaign medals.

Robert Brown
Robert Brown
Treasurer of the Board | SAIC

35 years continuous experience as a defense contractor for acquisition, development and training of UAS in US DoD and with NATO Joint Capability UAS Group supporting US representation for UAS standards development .  30 years experience with consecutive terms as  RoboNation  Board member/Treasurer, AUVSI Board member and Treasurer, AUVSI Capitol chapter President and Board member.  Currently employed with SAIC corporation.

Suzy Young
Suzy Young
University of Alabama in Huntsville

Dr. Suzy Young is the Director of the Research Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Previously, she was the Vice Chancellor for Research for the University of Alabama (UA) System where she worked with the Chancellor and Board of Trustees, administrators and research faculty at UA, UA Birmingham (UAB) and UAH to strengthen and broaden research initiatives and partnerships across the three universities. Before joining the UA System in 2011, Dr. Young worked for over 29 years in the United States Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Redstone Arsenal, in various research and leadership positions.


Dr. Young received a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Memphis, a Master of Business Administration from Florida Technical Institute, and a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. She is also a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College, Ft Belvoir, VA.


In 2011, Dr. Young was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Women in Defense Organization, presented the Honorable Order of St. Michael for Army Aviators, and in 2013, the Order of Prometheus for leadership in unmanned systems. In 2023 she was inducted into the Prometheus Pathfinder Hall of Fame for her work in uncrewed systems throughout her career. As a civil servant with the Army, she received the Civilian Service Award for Superior Performance, and the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service for Exceptional Leadership. She is a longtime National Board member for the Association for Unmanned Vehicles/Systems International (AUVSI), exited as the Board Chair in 2023, and now serves as the Immediate Past Chair on the Executive Committee. She currently serves on the AUVSI Robonation foundation board, and was appointed in 2013 by the Governor of the State of Alabama as a member of the Alabama Space Science Commission where she still serves today. She also serves on the US Space and Rocket Center Foundation Board. Dr. Young has numerous commendations and published works, and is considered a leader in research and development for government, industry, and academia.

Steve Duba
Steve Duba
Army Corps of Engineers (Retired)

Mr. Stephen C. Duba served the Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as Chief, Construction Division from October, 2012 until his retirement from federal service in December, 2018.  As Chief, he led a staff of 160 engineers, quality assurance representatives and support personnel executing construction contracts valued at over $1.9B.  Project purposes included flood control, environmental protection and restoration, navigation, shore protection and military and interagency support and involved construction of large concrete, rock and earth-filled dams, spillways, channels, reservoirs, water treatment facilities, harbor improvements, jetties, levees and bridges along with more traditional federal facilities.

 

Just prior to assuming his role as Chief of Construction, Mr. Duba participated in a nationwide initiative to sustain and enhance specialized engineering expertise, laying the groundwork for a new South Atlantic Division regional center for design of complex dam and levee safety, inland navigation, bridge and pumping station civil works projects throughout the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

 

From 2002 to 2011, Mr. Duba served as Chief, Engineering Division and Dam Safety Officer for the Jacksonville District, where he directed over 200 engineers, architects, hydrologists, geologists, chemists, surveyors, estimators, technicians and administrative personnel performing design and engineering for all civil works and interagency support projects undertaken by the District. 

 

Prior to joining the Corps of Engineers, Mr. Duba worked in the private sector as Vice President and Manager of Operations for ACE Constructors, Inc. in Gainesville, Florida.  Before that, he served 27 years with the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, retiring as Commanding Officer of Engineering Field Activity Southeast and Navy Public Works Center Jacksonville and as Regional Engineer for Commander, Navy Region Southeast.  In this position, he directed facility planning, acquisition, maintenance, repair and environmental compliance at Naval bases in eight southeastern states and the Caribbean.

 

Prior to arriving in Jacksonville, Mr. Duba served as Facilities and Environmental Director and Facilities Contracting Officer at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.  From 1995 to 1997, he served as Director, Ocean Facilities Program for Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and as Officer in Charge, Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center in Washington, D.C.  Before that, he served as Public Works Director and Officer in Charge of Construction at Dahlgren Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center.  From 1989 to 1992, he served as Staff Ocean Engineer for Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Washington, D.C.  From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Duba commanded Underwater Construction Team TWO in Port Hueneme, California, completing marine construction, repair and inspection projects in Central America and throughout the Pacific.  While under his command, UCT TWO became the first military unit to conduct sustained independent operations on the Polar ice cap.

 

Previous active duty assignments included Deputy Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Point Mugu-Port Hueneme, California area, Engineering Director at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, Panama City, Florida and R&D Program Manager for the Naval Construction Force at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, Port Hueneme, California.  Prior to transferring to the Civil Engineer Corps, he served as Executive Officer and Ship Salvage Officer onboard USS Escape (ARS-6), homeported in Mayport, Florida.

 

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Duba graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ocean Engineering.  He holds Masters degrees in Ocean Engineering and Business Administration and is a graduate of the Executive Program at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.  He is a registered Professional Engineer, a Fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers and Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  He was named Northeast Florida Engineer of the Year in 2002.  Mr. Duba and his wife, Marcella make their home in Amelia Island, Florida.

 

Dr. Z Jenkins
Dr. Z Jenkins
ITZ-LLC

 Dr. Z I. Jenkins is the CEO of three businesses based in Sothern Maryland including government contracting, engineering services and real estate development. The companies have annual cash flow of $3 million with full-time employee of 20. Dr. Jenkins began College at age 14 and started supporting the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at age 15. He worked for The MITRE Corporation in 2011 specializing in Electronic Warfare (EW) simulations. Dr. Jenkins academic accomplishments include BS Nuclear Engineering Technology 2013, MS Systems Engineering 2015, Dr of Engineering, Engineering Management Thesis on Model Based Systems Engineering 2020. 

 

As a defense contractor he works in the field of unmanned systems within the Program Executive Office (PEO) For Unmanned Aircraft and Weaponry (U&W). He is a Systems Engineering Subject Matter Expert (SME) in the field of Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) for programs including PMA-298, PMA-231, PMA-265, PMA-266, PMA-281. Support includes the NAVAIR groups: Mission Engineering (4.0M), Common Standards and Interoperability (CSI), and Systems Engineering Transformation (SET). Dr. Jenkins performed as the Systems Engineering Lead for NAVAIR’s Fleet Assessment, which conducts testing and analysis of Naval networks and waveforms, Including Link-16, TTNT, CDL, and ANW2. His work includes application of MBSE languages including SysML, Cameo Enterprise Architect and Cameo Systems Modeler as well as programing languages C++ and JavaScript supporting development of Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) trade studies regarding mesh network and IoT technologies. He has managed development of applications to automate protracted processes, including the insertion of new technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) as it applies to Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T). Dr. Jenkins has developed data and modeling software applications, to include Rational System Architect, Rational Software Architect, and Cameo Enterprise Architect to create architectures in Object-Oriented languages such as SysML and UML. Additionally, he utilizes MBSE, in conjunction with Rational DOORS, to manage requirements and provide statistics regarding traceability (RTVM), accountability, change management, and requirement to operational system mappings. 

 

His companies provide direct support to a range of military programs, real estate acquisitions, and property management activities. Dr. Jenkins executive experience in his firms include general operations and administration, marketing and service delivery, financial management, human resource management, public relations, enterprise security, resource allocation, logistics and distribution. 

He has an appreciation for the opportunities and needs from the student end, for educational development relating to STEM. He benefits from his business experience managing aspects of operations on the fiscal scale of RoboNation (RN). He has an appreciation for being able to extend the opportunities at RN to an increased number of participants. He is knowledgeable with cyber-challenges in terms of addressing the scope and complexity and has ability to comment on solutions if these discussions arise. He is an individual who competitors and competition team leaders could identify with in terms of his education, current progress, and interests. 

 

Dr. Jenkins, as a board member, is an opportunity to include youth as a diversification within the board. Since completing his High School education early and immediately pursuing advanced education and a military contracting career, while achieving his doctorate, he has realized advantages from a STEM educational progression unique among his peers in the field of unmanned systems. 

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Our History

RoboNation, Inc. (previously known as AUVSI Foundation) began operation in 2009 with generous support from AUVSI, the world’s largest industry organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics.

Today, RoboNation is an independent, tax exempt, 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to provide a pathway of hands-on educational experiences that empower students to find innovative solutions to global challenges. 

Although RoboNation is a separate organization, the partnership with AUVSI remains strong. AUVSI continues to encourage its members and chapters to invest in their own future by getting involved with RoboNation.  This unique relationship allows students at the earliest ages to understand that a career in robotics is a possibility, helping motivate them to pursue studies and hands-on experience with a career in STEM in mind.

RoboNation students of today are the future workforce for AUVSI’s member companies and the robotics industry overall.

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