May 18-19, 2012 at the University of Central Florida

2012 Committee

The 2012 Science Olympiad National Tournament Committee

Mike McKee – Co-Director, Core Committee

Send Mike an email.

Even while attending The Ohio State University, Mike McKee was catching things on fire when he started working at Ohio’s premiere science museum, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI).  He started there first as a volunteer and then later as a floor supervisor working in the planetarium, Street of Yesteryear (where he learned how to spin wool!), and Earth Sciences exhibit area.  There he developed his first show in which an actually space shuttle tile was removed from a red hot oven and then with bare hands held up while a match was lit from the heat stored in the tile.

After graduating from Ohio State, Mike moved to Orlando, FL where he first started working at Howard Middle School and then in 1992 at Cypress Creek High School.  In both cases, Mike was known for incredible demonstrations that captured and excited his students.  He would often be caught throwing eggs in the classroom to demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion, playing music VERY loud to demonstrate the physics of sound, and electrocuting hot dogs to get students to learn about simple electrical circuits.  In 1999, he assumed responsibility for directing the Florida Science Olympiad and now includes over 1500 students competing at the state competition each year at the University of Central Florida.

In 2005 Mike moved to the University of Central Florida where he directed the Greater Orlando GK-12 Partnership sponsored by the National Science Foundation and brought many of his inquiry based teaching techniques into middle and high school classroom in Orange County and taught graduate students how to change their instruction.

In 2007, Mike received his Masters of Science in Physics Education degree from the University of Central Florida.  His research focused on how beliefs in inquiry based learning affect the implementation of inquiry strategies in the classroom.

Mike has also presented about 90 segments of “Science Behind The Weather” for NBC’s WeatherPlus University, has written curriculum on weather for a local television station, and has been a presenter for teacher professional development. He continues to consult for Science Olympiad, and conducts science training for teachers of all grade levels.  He has been the recipient of many awards, including a school Teacher of the Year Award and the Radio Shack National Teacher Award.

In 2009, Mike became the first Science Coordinator for Aspire Public Schools, the highest rated charter school system in California and recently featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  He increased test scored dramatically with the school system by implementing an inquiry based curriculum.

In between, Mike was the host of Galileo’s Universe on WHDO-TV in Orlando, Fl, a show that posed science questions and then presented the answers in fun and exciting ways.  He is also the author of a series of K-5 science lab books written to help elementary teachers with teaching and learning science and includes over 200 lessons aligned to the standards in Florida, Texas, New York and California.

Currently, Mike is the Science Instructional Coach at Wekiva High School in Orange County Public Schools where he works with thirteen science teachers to bring innovative strategies that help engage students in learning science. He also continues the work of writing books and conducting professional development workshops.  In 2012 he will be the co-director for the Science Olympiad National Tournament at UCF, hosting nearly 10,000 participants and guests.

Sam Richie – Co-Director, Core Committee

Samuel M. Richie received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida in 1989.  He has been a faculty member at UCF for over 30 years and is currently the Associate Chair of the ECE Division of the Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as the undergraduate coordinator for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering programs.  He previously served as the Assistant Dean for Distributed Learning for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UCF. He has been principal or co-principal investigator for external research in the areas of surface acoustic wave transducer modeling and computer aided design, the development of modeling software for bi-directional and three-phase unidirectional surface acoustic wave transducers, and surface acoustic wave reflective array correlators. Other research includes development of algorithms for the synthesis of finite impulse response functions for systems with completely arbitrary magnitude and phase specifications, surface acoustic wave resonator and resonator filter modeling and CAD, surface acoustic wave proximity coupled, waveguide coupled resonator filter modeling and CAD. Additional research areas have included communications systems simulation including the U. S. Navy MARK XV identify friend or foe (IFF) system and advanced concepts in point scanning computer image generation algorithms, architecture, and system development.

Terrell Hodges – Assistant Director, Core Committee

Send Terrell an email.

Terrell Hodges works for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida.  She began working at UCF in 1997 and has held positions with the UCF Arena, the Foundation office as well as the College of Engineering and Computer Science Academic Affairs Office as the Graduate Admissions Specialist.  Her interest has always been working for and helping students at the university.  Her current position as Senior Information Specialist allowed her to get involved with Florida Science Olympiad five years ago.  Ms. Hodges has assisted FSO each year with the state competition which is held on the UCF campus.  She also holds the position of Administrative Coordinator with the EXCEL Program.  EXCEL is an NSF funded program designed to increase student success in the first two years of their college career in a STEM discipline.

Prior to moving to the Orlando area Ms. Hodges moved often as a military wife while raising her two boys.  She considers herself fortunate to have experienced many locations, cultures and people.  While living in Okinawa, Japan Ms. Hodges worked for the Dept. of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS), first in Human Resources then at Bob Hope Primary School as a staff member.

Terrell Hodges has lived in Oviedo, FL with her family since 1997.

Charlese Hilton-Brown – Core Committee

Charlese M. Hilton-Brown is the Advising Coordinator for the College of Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Central Florida.  She advises students in four undergraduate programs, which are Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Information Technology.

Charlese grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and attended the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. where she earned a B.A. in Communications.  Upon graduating she landed a position in television news and Public Affairs with WBZ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston at the time.  She stayed with the Boston TV Station for three years before moving to Los Angeles, California to continue her work in Broadcast News and Public Affairs.  In her quest for more out of life she decided to pursue a professional career in the academic environment.  She was hired as a Course Scheduler at the University of California Los Angeles, in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).  She was completely enamored with my experience in academia and with assisting students to fulfill their educational aspirations.

Charlese relocated to Orlando, Florida, and continued her career in education at a smaller independent college in the area.  This included working as a Financial Aid Assistant at Orlando College.  Seeking an opportunity to advance and expand her career led her to look to the University of Central Florida and as they say the rest is history.

Charlese’s passion is to be a “helping professional” and to do the kind of work that she is doing – empowering people, especially students to help themselves.  She enjoys being in the education arena and never wants to stop learning.  Her professional goals are to continue growing in her field and to pursue a graduate degree at UCF.

Dorianne Pagnotti – Competition

In 2004 Dorianne graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a Bachelors in Science Education. She worked at a Colonial High School in Orange County Public Schools for 6.5 years. There she taught Earth and Space, Earth and Space Honors, Biology Honors, Integrated Science and Integrated Science Honors. Her classroom was known for its organized chaos and a dynamic environment of learning.  In 2005, Dorianne became a teacher on the Greater Orlando GK-12 grant sponsored by the National Science Foundation. In the two years she was a part of the grant she was able to co-teach with graduate fellows and received extensive professional development on various science concepts and inquiry. This experience became the foundation to her teaching and professional development philosophy. This was the start of her love for inquiry.

Dorianne been the recipient of many awards including Teacher of the Year in 2007.  She earned her Master in Education Degree from UCF in Teacher Leadership in 2010, where she focused on curriculum and professional development for teachers.  Her passion is providing inquiry professional development to teachers. She has had the opportunity to provide professional development across the country on various science topics.  She also has had experience writing science curriculums for K-12 students.

Dorianne has been involved with Florida Science Olympiad since 2005 as a judge, volunteer, and presenter. In 2008 she became the Director for Florida Elementary Science Olympiad. As director she is responsible for all elementary tournaments, science fun nights/fun days, student camps, and professional development for coaches and teachers.  In addition Dorianne is Director of the Summer Science Camps sponsored by College of Optics and Photonics at UCF.  She is currently a Science Instructional Coach at Jackson Middle School in Orange County Public Schools where she supports twelve science teachers with content and pedagogy so that they can facilitate student learning.

Dorianne lives in Orlando with her husband and three year old little scientist. They are expecting a new bundle of joy this summer.

Susan Leeds – Hospitality

Susan Leeds, M.Ed, Unviersity of Massachusetts, and NBPTS has been a classroom teacher for 25 years and has taught the past 15 years at Howard Middle School in Orlando, FL where she is the Science Department Chair.  Over the course of her career she has received several national grants and recognitions including the US Department of Education American Star Teacher, Gustav Ohaus Award for Innovative Practices, Toyota Tapestry Grant, GTE Gift Grant, state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, Regional PRISM Award,  and several Disney Teacherrific Awards among others. Susan wrote the grant and was the team lead that resulted in her school being a NASA Explorer School.

Being committed to science and enrichment opportunities for her students, Susan has coached her own school’s Science Olympiad team for over 10 years as well as sponsored her middle school Rocket Club, which qualified for the National Team America Rocketry Contest, National Fly-Offs twice in 6 years. Susan is also published in More Best Teaching practice by Corwin Press, and co-authored a book of standards aligned inquiry based investigations called Science Is A verb by TPS publishing.

Jamie Vander Wiede – Volunteers

Jamie Vander Wiede has had experience teaching Physical Science and Earth/Space Science to middle school and high school students in Orlando, FL for the past five years. She received her master’s degree in Applied Learning and Instruction from the University of Central Florida in Summer 2011 after completing a thesis study comparing how inquiry and direct instruction can be used in varying sequences to influence student motivation and achievement in the science classroom. Jamie has had experience presenting at several regional science teaching and learning conferences around the southeastern United States as well as designing and directing science summer camps for students of all ages living in Central Florida.”