Our Board

Under the guidance of our Board of Directors and Key Volunteers, FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi supports hundreds of FIRST robotics teams, dozens of competitions, and various demonstrations at events each year.

  Annette Oertling – President
FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana

Annette Oertling, Ph.D. is the president and a founding member of FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi, Inc. (formerly BLaST, Inc.), a non-profit organization responsible for bringing FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO® League to Louisiana in 2003 and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) to Louisiana and Mississippi in 2007. She is also President of the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair, serving grades 6-12 in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard parishes, and of the Greater New Orleans STEM Initiative, a regional collaborative between K-12, higher education, economic development, and business and industry institutions that are committed to improving the caliber of math and science education through teacher training.

Since retiring from Tulane University as a Professor of Practice in the Biomedical Engineering Department and Assistant Dean for K-12 Outreach for the School of Science and Engineering in 2013, Annette now volunteers with organizations with K-12 outreach missions. Her degrees include a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and a M.A.T. in Math. She worked eight years for Exxon Company, U.S.A. in the production department, two years for Louise McGehee High School teaching math and science and twelve years for Tulane University. She lives in New Orleans and is married with 2 children and 6 grandchildren.

  Warren Cancienne – Vice President
Senior Judge Advisor – Louisiana
Warren Cancienne is a Senior Project Engineer in the Manufacturing Engineering Group at Intralox, LLC. He received his undergraduate degree in Engineering Science from the University of New Orleans and a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A & M University.

Aside from his Officer-ships on both the FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi and BLaST boards, Warren has been a highly valued FIRST event volunteer for almost 20 years; serving as the Judge Advisor for the Louisiana FIRST LEGO League State Tournament since 2003, and Judge Advisor for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Bayou Regional since 2010. Warren has also been honored as a Distinguished Engineering Alumnus by the University of New Orleans.

  Michelle Hewlett Sanchez -Secretary
FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana
Michelle Hewlett Sanchez, Ph.D. is a Professor of Practice and the Director for K-12 STEM Outreach in Tulane University’s School of Science and Engineering. She joined the Tulane faculty in the Physics and Engineering Department in August 2012. Michelle is a Tulane University graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineering and Mathematics and a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering. Michelle received the Ph.D. degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University in December 2011.

Her goal as the Director for K-12 STEM Outreach for the School of Science and Engineering is to match the resources at Tulane with partnerships in the community promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education for grades K–12. She works with the Center for Public Service at Tulane developing Service Learning courses and Service Internship opportunities for students in science and engineering. She also coordinates the Tulane Science Scholars Program, which brings exceptional 10th–12th grade students to Tulane for for-credit summer classes with Tulane faculty. Students can earn college credit before high school graduation while having the option to stay on campus. In addition, she coordinates the Girls in STEM at Tulane program and Boys in STEM at Tulane program, which brings 5th–8th grade students to campus to meet and work with role models in STEM fields by doing hands-on activities.

Michelle also serves as Co-Director for the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair; open to 6th–12th grade students in a four-parish area who have placed in their school science and engineering fairs. Additionally, she helps coordinate the FIRST LEGO League (FLL, elementary/middle-school robotics) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC, high-school) events held in New Orleans. She also serves on the board of the Greater New Orleans STEM Initiative, which is a non-profit organization bringing STEM programs to schools in the Greater New Orleans area by training teachers and equipping them with hands-on, inquiry-based kits to be used in the classroom.

   Tiffany Jackson – Treasurer
Tiffany B. Jackson is a Certified Public Accountant with over 25 years of accounting experience. She currently serves as Deputy Director for the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund. Tiffany has managed $20+ million budgets, received clean audits every single year, audited and prepared financial statements for entities such as government, nonprofit, corporate and charter schools. She understands the need to accurately report financial information so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions. Over the years, Tiffany’s work experience and client list has included Chase Bank, Whitney Bank, Bruno & Tervalon LLP Certified Public Accountants, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, CDM Smith, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation and various for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, she graduated from the University of New Orleans (UNO) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. In addition to being a CPA, Tiffany has also earned the designation of Society of Human Resource Management’s Senior Certified Professional. Tiffany maintains professional memberships with the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the Society of Human Resources Management. She is a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is currently active in the Slidell Alumnae Chapter where she has served as treasurer, financial secretary, and technology committee chair. She is a member of the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity Revolutionary Rosies Team and a lifetime member of Girl Scouts. She has served as a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 11 years, First LEGO League Coach for 4 years, and a mentor to FRC Team 1912 Combustion for the past 2 years.

  Carolyn Arthurs – Board Member
Regional Director – LA/MS
Program Delivery Partner – FIRST Robotics Competition

Each Regional robotics competition has a director, who is responsible for fundraising, team recruitment and team support. The Regional Director (RD) also acts as liaison between FIRST Headquarters and the Regional Planning Committee, and as the Director of the Regional Event. In this position, the FIRST Regional Director for Louisiana and Mississippi teams throughout the year.

Carolyn Arthurs has held the position of Regional Director since 2012. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, her expertise as a Regional Event Manager, since the year 2000 through Show Ready Events has given her experience running over 100 regional events throughout the country. In addition to her position as Regional Director of the Bayou Regional, Carolyn is also the owner of All About Events, a New Orleans based Social Event Company.

Carol Cancienne – Board Member
FIRST LEGO League Explore Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana

  Elizabeth Cato – Board Member
FIRST TECH Challenge Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana
Elizabeth Cato serves as the Louisiana FIRST Tech Challenge Program Delivery Partner along with Danny Thomasson. She became involved with FIRST as a parent to a team member, proceeding to coach an FTC team, then volunteer with Louisiana FTC as a Judge Advisor.

Elizabeth served 17 years as a Law Enforcement Officer in Louisiana and is currently a licensed Speech Language Pathologist with the St. Tammany Parish School Board. Elizabeth obtained her Master of Science degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with an undergrad focus on Deaf Education. 

David Fava – Board Member
FIRST Senior Mentor – Mississippi

Louis Jackson – Board Member
FIRST Senior Mentor – Louisiana

  Teresa Lanum – Board Member
FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner – Mississippi
Teresa Lanum is the president and co-founder of Central Mississippi Robotics, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote the application of science, technology, engineering and math to students in K- 12th grade through robotics. She is also president of Robotics Alliance of Mississippi, a non-profit organization that has been responsible for delivering the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO® League program to Mississippi since 2007. Since 2017, she has served as the Program Delivery Partner for FIRST® LEGO® League in Mississippi.

As a home educator, Teresa introduced her three children to FIRST® robotics in 2006. All three participated in FIRST® until graduating high school. She has coached both FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge teams. Witnessing the impact of FIRST® robotics on students participating in the program has made Teresa a definite proponent of it.

  Mannie Lowe – Board Member
FIRST TECH Challenge Program Delivery Partner – Mississippi
Mannie Lowe is the Mississippi FIRST Tech Challenge Program Delivery Partner and Program Manager at the University of Mississippi’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education. Mannie has helped grow this program in Mississippi from 4 teams to over 60 since 2012. Mannie is a firm believer in the mission of FIRST® (www.firstinspires.org) and how it can impact students. He has coached and mentored several FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Robotics Competition, and FIRST LEGO League teams to award-winning seasons, as well as serving as a resource to many other coaches and mentors throughout the country.  In 2016, Mannie was honored as the FIRST Tech Challenge International Volunteer of the Year.

Prior to moving to Mississippi, Mannie was a software engineer and project manager for several companies in the Atlanta, GA area. Mannie also taught computer science and robotics at Atlanta’s Pace Academy, a private K-12 school. Mannie is co-author of Winning LEGO MINDSTORMS Programming with James Trobaugh and, in the future hopes to author a book on the FIRST Tech Challenge.

  Barbara Pailet – Board Member
By vocation, Barbara Pailet is a teacher, but her passion is philanthropy. Professionally, she serves as the Executive Director of The Bruce J. Heim Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to helping young people to realize their full potential. Her personal time is invested in causes that directly impact people. Among her many community activities, she has a dedicated focus on FIRST. In 2004, in order to grow FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and FIRST in Louisiana, Barbara established a new non-profit organization, FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi, Inc. (formerly BLaST, Inc.) Through this entity, built with representatives from the business community, Universities, NASA and other non-profits, FLL and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) have achieved enviable growth and made a positive impact on thousands of students.

Barbara has been the recipient of the New Orleans Jewish Federation’s Outstanding Young Leader Award, recognized as an Outstanding Young American Woman, was recognized by FIRST with an Outstanding Commitment Award for her work in Louisiana with FLL following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and was chosen as a 2015 Distinguished Service to Education Award winner by the Delta Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute Teacher Award Program. She also serves on the board of the Greater New Orleans STEM Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing successful Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs to schools in the Greater New Orleans area. Barbara is married to Kenneth, a real life Barbie and Ken couple for 44 years! She has two daughters, one granddaughter and one grandson.

Penny Rodrigue – Board Member
FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner – Mississippi


  Danny Thomasson – Board Member
FIRST TECH Challenge Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana
Danny Thomasson serves as the Louisiana FIRST Tech Challenge Program Delivery Co-Partner and volunteers with all Louisiana FIRST programs.  He has been active in FIRST programs since 2016 and currently mentors both FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition Teams. Danny is a veteran educator with over 30 years in the classroom and currently teaches Engineering courses at the Denham Springs High School STEM and Robotics Center.  He is active in promoting STEM initiatives throughout the region. 

“We are not teaching our students how to finalize an end product. We are in the business of showing them how to invent, how to innovate, how to know more today than they did yesterday. We are in the business of showing them the journey to success.”

  Jean Williams – Board Member
FIRST LEGO League Explore Program Delivery Partner – Louisiana
Jean Williams has a knack for helping youth realize and aspire to what they can become. Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the practice of fostering rigorous, self-motivated discovery in all areas of development, in particular as it relates to STEM pursuits.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hendrix College in 1998, followed by her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She utilized this training during her initial post-graduate journey as an adolescent and family therapist, spending over a decade working primarily in service of the military and with youth involved in the juvenile justice system in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Germany.  Her career turned to teaching in 2010, where she realized a life-long interest in sharing her passion for science, math, and engineering discovery with students of all ages.  She served as the president of the Louisiana Montessori Association prior to being hired to teach engineering at Hammond High Magnet School in 2019, where she continues to teach today.  She was also recently brought on to assist with teacher training as part of the LSU STEM Pathway Pre-Engineering Program.

Jean was introduced to FIRST in 2012 as a FIRST Lego League (FLL) parent.  She and her husband, Ben, stepped in as coaches for FLL Team 4043, the Bayou Builders in 2014 at the request of their oldest daughter to keep the team from disbanding.  Due to her involvement in FIRST robotics, she has developed a passion for ensuring STEM equity and giving back to the students who inspire her. In addition to coaching the Bayou Builders, she currently mentors FRC Torbotics 2080, 4 FTC teams, and 3 community-based FLL Explore teams. She also serves on the planning committee for FTC events in Louisiana and currently serves as Louisiana’s FTC Regional Judge Advisor. She and her husband, Ben, started a non-profit called HYPE Robotics of LA in 2017 with the goal of helping support youth pursuing excellence in robotics.  Through this initiative they are able to support multiple rookie and veteran teams throughout their area. She is an active member of the Northshore STEM Coalition, the Louisiana chapter of Million Women Mentors & assisted in the establishment of her region’s first Mobile STEM Lab.