Fredi Lajvardi, Keynote Speaker

Wednesday, October 26 at 11 a.m.

For more than two decades, high school science teacher Fredi Lajvardi has engaged, motivated and challenged students by making science fun and introducing them to the field of robotics. With countless hours spent after school, mentoring and investing in the underserved students at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Lajvardi drew national attention in 2004, when he entered his diverse high school team in a university level national underwater robotics competition, where they not only proved their skills and ability to compete at that level, but they placed first, defeating leading universities, including MIT.

First covered by Wired magazine, their inspiring story drew attention from local and national media outlets and led to the acclaimed documentary, Underwater Dreams. In March 2015, the film was selected by President Obama to screen at the White House in honor of National Robotics Week and the launch of the “Let Everyone Dream” Coalition, a national initiative introducing new multi-sector partnerships in support of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for underserved students. Their story was also adapted into the major motion picture, Spare Parts, starring actor and comedian, George Lopez as Lajvardi.

Honored with numerous awards, including the IEEE National Outstanding Educator for 2005, the Arizona Department of Education Leadership Award for 2006, and the City of Phoenix Outstanding Teacher of the Year each year from 2005 to 2009, Lajvardi has, and continues to be, a significant contributor to the increasing interest and awareness of STEM education nationwide. With an effective leadership philosophy, incredible story and a spirited passion for teaching, Lajvardi offers valuable and inspiring insight on fostering teamwork, sparking creativity and helping individuals realize and maximize their potential.

Fredi Lajvardi will appear in the Exhibit Hall Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 11 a.m.

David Hespe

Acting Education Commissioner, Kimberley Harrington

Tuesday, October 25 – 2:00-3:30 pm.

Kimberley Harrington is the Acting New Jersey Commissioner of Education. She has served in the position since October 1, 2016.

Prior to becoming acting commissioner, Kimberley served for two years as assistant commissioner/chief academic officer for the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). In that role, she oversaw the NJDOE's Division of Teaching and Learning, which has the responsibilities of the Division of Early Childhood Education, the offices of Primary Education; Intermediate and Secondary Education; Teaching and Learning Support; Academic Initiatives and Fiscal Accountability; Career Readiness; Educational Technology; and School Innovation; as well as the Amistad Commission and the Italian American Heritage Commission. Kimberley was also in charge of implementing New Jersey's Student Learning Standards, with the ultimate goal of providing a path for students to become college- and career-ready.

In 2012, Kimberley came to the NJDOE as the director of academic standards, where she led the department's outreach to teachers and school leaders on how to align their local curriculum with New Jersey's academic standards. Prior to that she worked as a classroom teacher and a director of curriculum and instruction.