The Mission

The Challenge

The Strategy

Must-Innov8, Inc.

S.M.A.R.T stands for…

Smoky Mountain Area Robotics Team


The mission of S.M.A.R.T. WNC is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.


“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

Dean Kamen, Founder


Engage kids in kindergarten through high school in exciting, Mentor-based, research and robotics programs that help them become science and technology leaders, as well as well-rounded contributors to society.

FIRST Values

Gracious Professionalism®

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of S.M.A.R.T. WNC. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.


Coopertition® produces innovation. At S.M.A.R.T. WNC, Coopertition is 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.

Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.


First Inspires – READ MORE



Dean Kamen is a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST. For over 25 years, Kamen has resolutely led the growth of FIRST to where it is now universally recognized as the leading, not-for-profit STEM engagement program for kids worldwide.

Exciting Students About STEM

The Mission:

Implement programs that excite and engage a broad spectrum of K-12 students about learning STEM subjects.

The Challenge:

By 8th grade 50% of students dislike and/or are actively avoiding STEM subjects. The situation becomes much worse in high school.

80% of all jobs being created require the ability to use STEM knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Employers are seeking graduates who have critical thinking skills, are collaborative, have strong written and oral presentation skills, and other critical life skills.

The Strategy:

In partnership among CEOs from businesses across the region, school superintendents, civic leaders and higher education, implement STEM afterschool competitive teams that a broad spectrum of students will want to engage in. As an example, competitive robotics teams seem to have the same addictive quality as video games with the benefit that students are immersed in learning complex STEM applications. The students are having so much fun that they have no idea how much they are learning about STEM. Having fun with STEM is the key to changing student attitudes about STEM.

The programs are modeled on sports teams and culminate in regional and state tournaments. The bleachers in the gym will be filled with screaming parents, siblings and friends cheering on their favorite robotics team. Here is a link to a video of Forsyth County’s 2011 Robot Run. This is the rookie year Forsyth County Robot Run and 12 weeks prior to this video these kids knew nothing about robotics. They are having fun and displaying the behaviors that business leaders crave in their workforce.

The role of Must-Innov8, Inc.

Must-Innov8’s role is much like a grain of sand in an oyster…a catalyst for creating a beautiful thing that people admire and demand.

We recruit and engage CEOs from industry, Economic Developers, higher education and civic leaders to facilitate rapid implementation. This effort involves asking for financial commitments, leadership of the implementation process and recruiting mentors and volunteers from their organization.

We form a Steering Committee to lead the organization and implementation of a competitive robotics programs for students 9 to 14 years old. We actively mentor the Steering Committee during the first season.
We provide the Gantt charts and templates for conducting the team intra- and inter-school team scrimmages and the county and regional tournaments.

We train the coaches and prepare them for the transition from the traditional lecture/lab curriculum delivery to facilitating the student led discovery model that the afterschool STEM teams employ.

We work with local organizations (Chamber, Rotary, etc.) to recruit volunteers for the scrimmages and tournaments.

We engage community college presidents to host tournaments and share information about exciting career pathways.

At the end of the season we gather the best and brightest minds from across the region to create a vision for broadly implementing these types of STEM teams from K through 12th grade. We include the teacher/coaches and team mentors from industry to participate in this process.

In addition, we administer a survey to the students, coaches, mentors and parents to assess the impact of the program and compare the results to a national baseline established from over 10 years of data.

We brainstorm with teachers, administrators, business leaders and civic leaders on ways to bring the excitement and energy of the afterschool programs into the classroom.

One of Must-Innov8’s key objectives is to create a powerful strategic advantage for county and regional Economic Developers. Having a community that is focused on helping students acquire STEM knowledge and critical life skills is a huge advantage when recruiting companies to locate in your county. We make presentations to County Commissioners and Economic Development Boards to ensure their engagement and support of the program.