Melissa Higgins, M.A., Director of Curriculum Development
Engineering is Elementary

Ms. Higgins provided Start Engineering with invaluable guidance in the creation of "Design, Invent, Create." As Director of Curriculum Development at Engineering is Elementary, Ms. Higgins works to create exciting, hands-on, minds-on engineering challenges that inspire children and educators to engage in and enjoy STEM learning. Upon joining the EiE team in 2004, Higgins helped to shape the project’s flagship in-school curriculum by authoring the storybooks that contextualize each engineering unit, as well as crafting many of the units’ hands-on design challenges. Beginning in 2010, Higgins spearheaded the development of engineering curricula for after-school and camp programs, including the Engineering Adventures and Engineering Everywhere programs. Higgins holds a B.A. in Architectural Studies from Connecticut College and an M.A. in Museum Studies from the Harvard University Extension School.


Laurie Young, M.E., Science Specialist
Janney Elementary School, Washington, DC

Ms. Young has taught in DC Public Schools for 24 years, teaching 4th and 5th grade Technology and Science. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland and her Masters of Education at George Washington University. Ms. Young has worked with the Carnegie Academy for Science Education for many years as a Mentor Teacher in the Elementary Science Summer Institute. In that capacity she worked with DC teachers to develop science methodology and content knowledge through hands-on experiences, and provided training on teaching with FOSS Science Kits. For the last 4 years she has worked as the Science Teacher and Garden Coordinator at Janney Elementary, a Blue-Ribbon school located in northwest Washington, DC.  During that time she developed a hands-on, inquiry-based science program for grades K-5th, and started an Environmental Education Program based around Janney's extensive school gardens. 


Joe Astroth, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and
Chief Education Strategist, Innovation First International

Dr. Astroth joined Innovation First International in 2011, providing executive leadership for educational initiatives across IFI’s businesses.

He is also chairman of the board of the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports robotics programs that aim to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The REC Foundation operates and supports competitions for some of the world’s leading robotics platforms and organizations including VEX, TSA and BEST.

Dr. Astroth has a unique blend of industry, academia, management and senior leadership experience, including service as a highly visible board member of several industry and education organizations and associations including Project Lead the Way, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST), The Olin College of Engineering, and the College of Design and Innovation, Tongji University, Shanghai, China. 

Earlier in his career, Dr. Astroth served as a senior executive for more than 15 years at Fortune 1000 company Autodes and re-established the company’s presence in the global education market. Prior to that, he was a part-time technology consultant and full-time professor at the University of Missouri, where he co-founded a research institute focused on computer cartography, remote sensing and geographic information systems. Dr. Astroth completed his doctoral work at The University of Chicago.


Stephan Knobloch, Ed.D., Senior Vice President of Research and Advisory Services, K12 Insight

Stephan Knobloch is responsible for leading K12 Insight’s research services to engage district stakeholders in meaningful conversations with the goal of improving public education.

Stephan has more than two decades of combined experience as a public school teacher and district administrator. Most recently, Stephan served as Director of Research for Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools, a rapidly growing school system with more than 66,000 students in 80-plus schools. Stephan was responsible for coordinating program evaluations, overseeing all research studies and surveys, developing school improvement efforts and leading a data-driven culture of decision-making. Previously, Stephan served as Senior Director of PBS TeacherLine, an online professional development service for teachers funded by the U.S. Department of Education. He has also worked as a national consultant in the areas of project-based learning, instructional design, assessment and technology integration.

Stephan holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Virginia