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Kelli Gowan

Executive Director

Kelli graduated from GA Tech with a BS in Management and minors in Finance and Information Systems and is currently pursuing a Masters In Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University.  She most recently has worked at Murray State University and Eastern Kentucky University as a foster parent trainer and team leader for foster parent support and recruitment.

Kelli originally became involved with the FIRST community in 2009, when she started an FLL team for her sons. That first season of FLL was enough to get her hooked for life. She went on to coach FLL for 12 years, and FTC for 6 years, at one point coaching 3 FTC teams and 4 FLL teams and managing a non-profit that ran them all. 

When the FTC affiliate partner for KY stepped away in 2018, there was a void for KY teams that would not have a competition to compete in. Kelli and her team went on a mission to find someone to fill that role so that students in KY would have events to attend. When none was found, Kelli started the FTC in Kentucky non-profit and worked with a board to ensure that there would be structure in place to offer events to teams in the area. 

Kelli understands the value of FIRST programming and wants to see it available to more youth in Kentucky. As more and more Industry is moving in to Kentucky, the time for growth in Kentucky is here. With that in mind, Kelli worked with the board to transition from FTC in Kentucky to KY FIRST Robotics, and accepted the role as Executive Director. She looks forward to leading the organization and expanding the reach of FIRST programs in Kentucky!

In her free time, Kelli loves spending time with her large family - her husband and 7 children. As a long time foster and adoptive family, and foster parent trainer, Kelli has a passion for helping kids in foster care and those that support them. She also enjoys time outside at her small hobby farm.

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Heather Smith

Assistant Executive Director

Heather has been involved with FIRST since 2017.  Her introduction to FIRST came after a long search for an engineering/robotics/STEAM opportunity for her high school aged daughter.  She found that in Kentucky, the opportunities were not easy to come by and required quite a distance of travel.  In fact, her first year, the team was made up of students who traveled from 5 different counties each week to meet!  

During her daughter's time on the team, Heather acted as a volunteer for the team and with the state tournaments and summer off-season events.  From there, she transitioned into a vacant seat on the state Board of Directors in the Secretary position and has worked diligently to expand the communication and assistance to help teams navigate the season.  She received the 2021-2022 Volunteer of the Year award at the Kentucky State Championship.

Heather has seen how FIRST helps students not only during their time on their teams but, also as those students move on to college and the workplace.  She feels it is important not only to help the students now, but to help the Alumni keep involved with FIRST as a volunteer and to help connect them in their careers.  

Heather wants to help grow the FIRST programs in Kentucky not only in ways that will bring opportunities to the underserved communities that may not have access to expanded STEAM programs but also to encourage especially girls to become involved. 

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FTC Leadership

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Kelli Gowan


Heather Smith


FRC Leadership

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Kelli Gowan

Regional Director - Kentucky

Heather Smith

Regional Director-Kentucky

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FLL Leadership

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Elizabeth Koch

FLL Challenge & Explore Partner

Bev Ketron

FLL Explore Partner

Bev Ketron

FLL Explore Partner

Senior Mentors

Jeff Slaton

Senior Mentor

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