Krystile Birdsall, Co-Board Chair
Krystle Birdsall is a seasoned education professional with over a decade of experience, marked by a commitment to creativity, servant leadership, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She has made significant contributions in underserved and underrepresented communities nationwide.
Krystle’s academic credentials include a Master’s degree in Psychological Studies in Education from UCLA and teaching certificates from Temple University. Starting her career in the classroom and social services, she has broadened her impact through curriculum development, school leadership, coaching new teachers, board governance, and policy and advocacy. With a passion for continuous learning, who knows when she will expand her impact next.
Recently, Krystle has transitioned into entrepreneurship as the owner and operator of Challenge Island – Camden County NW, a STEAM enrichment program. This venture aligns her interests in STEAM, education, and social justice by catering to the needs of today’s imaginative children, empowering them to become successful adults in the global landscape.
Aaron Silvers, Co-Board Chair
Aaron Silvers began programming at the age of six on an Apple II+ in the late 1970s. After developing CD-ROM based courseware and web portals for students and parents while a 7th/8th grade teacher in the late 1990s, Aaron left the classroom for commercial and government multimedia projects, including NFL’s PlayFootball.com and the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Distributed Learning initiative.
Starting in 2010, Aaron led a successful open government effort, the Experience API (xAPI). Building an international stakeholder community, the three-year specification effort resulted in a number of follow-on specification and software projects. Aaron organized developers and vendors to align on industry goals, ethics and standards-of-practice before migrating the community from a startup not-for-profit foundation to IEEE, where xAPI in 2023 was finally released as IEEE’s very first open source standard.
An Eagle Scout, Aaron hails from four generations of educators and community leaders. Aaron holds a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction from University of Wisconsin – Madison. He is the Organizer for Narberth’s 4th of July Celebrations since 2022 and, when not volunteering or disc golfing, proudly serves as a Lead Human Resources Specialist for the US National Archives and consults on learning and community-forward projects at MakingBetter.us.
Kevin Maynard, Treasurer
Kevin Maynard PE is the son of a Philadelphia public school teacher and a graduate of Central High School and Drexel University with a bachelors of science degree in Electrical Engineering. His early introduction to STEM careers have allowed him rise to become the engineering manager for Potomac Testing, a NETA (InterNational Electrical Testing Association) firm with offices through the Northeast and Midwest portions of the US. As a power systems engineer he has led multi disciplined design teams in the support of electrical upgrades at industrial facilities within the region. He is a published author and presenter for both IEEE and NETA technical societies. Kevin is a licensed Professional Engineer in 8 states and has been appointed by the Governor as the electrical engineer to the uniform construction code review and advisory council in Pennsylvania.
Lori Abernethy, Secretary
Lori has proudly served the students of the School District of Philadelphia for over 25 years and hopes to continue for many years to come. She has taught self-contained 5th grade, Technology Education, and currently teaches Digital Literacy at Thomas Holme Elementary School.
Her enduring goal throughout her years of teaching is to foster a love of learning in all of her students and to share her love of problem-solving. She has coached teams in the Future City Competition for over twenty years and more recently became a FIRST LEGO League coach, bringing three teams to the competition.
Lori holds her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Lock Haven University, her ESL certificate from Temple University, and her Master’s Degree in Technology Education from Ball State University.
Maggie Deptola, Director
Maggie is the Finance, Grants and Operations Manager for the Building Movement Project, an organization that supports and pushes the nonprofit sector to tackle the most significant social issues of our times by developing research, creating tools and training materials, providing guidance, and facilitating networks for social change.
An advocate for high quality STEM education opportunities in schools, Maggie’s previous roles include serving as the first Chief Operating Officer of Coded by Kids, a Philadelphia-based tech education nonprofit serving students across the region. She was instrumental in building the systems and partnerships that fueled the organization’s early expansion from a small, scrappy team of 3 serving 100 students to a team of 12 serving 500 students annually in 3 states.
Maggie is passionate about economic mobility, educational equity, and capacity-building for social enterprises. She has a bachelor’s degree in international area studies from Drexel University and a certificate in nonprofit management from La Salle University. Maggie is currently a second-year Executive Master of Public Administration student at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Michael Johnson, Director & Senior Advisor, Event Director
Michael is the head coach of the Central High School RoboLancers and has been teaching physics and engineering in the School District of Philadelphia since 2009. He holds a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a master’s in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Michael is a 2014 recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and has over a decade of experience in nonprofit finance and leadership in Philadelphia.
Armond Smith, Director
Armond is a software engineer for Elsevier, a global health resource company, and CEO of Gamechee, a small game development studio based in Philadelphia. With these positions he pushes for alternative ways of learning, combining education with media to create microlearning opportunities that are more accessible to those for whom traditional education fails. He is a FIRST alumnus, serving as president and programming lead for the Central High School RoboLancers. He was a FIRST Dean’s List finalist. Armond holds a bachelors of science in computer science with a minor in data science from Temple University.
Kristopher Robinson, Director
Kris is a proud educator and Associate Director of College Access and Equity with Philadelphia Futures Steppingstone Scholars (PFSS) at George Washington Carver High School for Engineering and Sciences, where he oversees program implementation, services and academic advising. As a Philadelphia native, he has developed a unique view of the complex school choice process and educational landscape of the city, while focusing on ways to integrate high quality enrichment programs and activities that prepare students for post-secondary success.
He has worked as a FIRST Robotics coach for community teams in the North Philadelphia area and has worked as an educator and college access counselor throughout the Philadelphia region, as a middle grades science teacher and AmeriCorps Alumnus. Kris earned his BA at Temple University in both Sociology and Anthropology.
Neferteri Strickland, Director
Neferteri Strickland is a Cybertechnology Strategist, military officer and adjunct professor who aligns with her communities through emerging technology initiatives in K-20 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education.
At the start of the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic Neferteri launched TEACHERS & the Design to Disrupt community to support education stakeholders navigating the future of education.
She, her loving husband, and two amazing children, reside in the Greater Philadelphia Region where she serves as an adjunct professor in Blockchain Technology at Saint Joseph’s University and a lecturer at The Wharton School of Business.
Dr. Youngmoo Kim, Director
Youngmoo Kim is Vice Provost for University & Community Partnerships and founding director of the ExCITe Center at Drexel University. He presents frequently on topics related to the intersections of technology, performing arts, and digital equity. HIs 2019 TEDxPhiladelphia talk addressed the persistent digital divide and the lack of equity & inclusion in tech education and industry. He has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed research publications and led “Making Culture”, a national study of education makerspaces.
In 2021 Youngmoo received Drexel Engineering’s Inclusive Excellence Award. He was named “Connector of the Year” in 2017 by LiveConnections (World Cafe Live) and “Scientist of the Year” by the 2012 Philadelphia Geek Awards. He is a member of the Apple Distinguished Educator class of 2013.
Youngmoo received his Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab and holds Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Music from Stanford University as well as Engineering and Music degrees from Swarthmore College. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and Spring Point Partners, among others.
Paula Don, Director
Paula Don recently retired from over 33 years with the School District of Philadelphia. During her tenure she served as Director of Gifted Education and as director of Educational Technology. Paula serves as a consultant with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), reviewing educational products for alignment to the ISTE Standards. She is also a certified LEGO Education trainer and provides training to schools and districts using LEGO Solutions in the classroom.
Paula received her BA and MS Ed from the University of Southern California. She began her career in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified School Districts before moving to Philadelphia in 1982.
Dia L. Jones, Ed.D., Executive Director
For the past 17 years, Dia L. Jones has been a transformative leader in education within the School District of Philadelphia. She has served students and families as an English teacher, Dean of Students, and Assistant Principal of School Culture.
Dia earned her B.A. from the University of Central Oklahoma, an M.Ed. from Temple University, and an Ed.D. in Education Policy and Leadership from American University. Her qualitative dissertation examined the social and emotional supports adolescent Black girls need to remain motivated to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers.
As a program manager with the Columbia University Girls in STEM program and as an Executive Director with the STEM Educational Institute, Dia introduced hundreds of students to STEM college and career opportunities throughout the country. Dia’s objective is to replicate those national programs throughout Philadelphia to increase the number of underrepresented students in STEM locally.