Address: P. O. Box 1166, Bettendorf, IA 52722
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Supporting STEM professionals, societies, educators, parents and students

2020 – 2021 Board of Directors

List of past Chairs


Austin Laugen
Austin Laugen graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Computer Engineering in 2013. In 2018, he completed the Systems Design and Management certificate program through MIT.
Since then, he’s worked for John Deere in multiple embedded software roles. He currently works as the software delivery lead for an upcoming combine program.Outside of work, he’s spent four years mentoring two different FTC teams. He also mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters and serves on Beta Sigma Psi Fraternity’s alumni board.Austin grew up in the Quad Cities and first became involved with QCESC while in high school. He’s excited to be back involved to help facilitate further STEM opportunities in the area. He currently resides in Davenport.
Beth Ullmark
Beth Ullmark graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with a degree in Computer Science through the College of Engineering.  She has an MBA degree through St. Ambrose University.
After graduation, she worked at Linguisystems, but since 1991 has worked at John Deere. Her assignments in Global IT have included network and server admin, managing the Corporate networks, and John Deere Finance Software Testing.  She is currently working on the largest software program in John Deere history as a Quality Manager in Davenport. In the past 7 years, she has worked extensively with the FLL tournaments in the Quad Cities. She became a member of the State of Iowa SE Stem Advisory council in 2016. A lifelong Quad City inhabitant, she is committed to ensuring that all children have opportunity to realize the potential of a STEM career. She currently resides in Davenport.
Director/Past President & Professional Development Coordinator
Dan D’Alessandro
Dan D’Alessandro retired from Deere & Company in 2016 after 40 years of service. In his last role, he was the Global Manager of an engineering organization that developed embedded electronic hardware and software systems for Deere agricultural and turf products.
Dan graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from University of Northern Iowa.
He is involved in several volunteer roles including FIRST FLL/FTC/FRC competition Judge, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Iowa Chapter Board Member, American Red Cross Orientation Trainer, YWCA of the Quad Cities Board ex officio Member, and Western Illinois University Senior Design Mentor.Also, Dan is an independent engineering management consultant.
Greg Smith
Greg Smith has been a teacher at Davenport West High School for the last 8 years and has been a teacher in the Quad Cities for 15 years. At West, Greg teaches Project Lead The Way and Industrial Technology classes, coaches FLL Jr, FTC and FRC robotics and lead the Advance Manufacturing Pathway.
Greg graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville with a Bachelor of Science in Technology Education and a minor in Broadcast Communications and holds a Master’s of Education in Teaching from St. Ambrose University, as well as an Associate of Applied Sciences from Eastern Iowa Community College in CNC Machining.
He serves on the Iowa Governor’s Teachers Cabinet and is a Iowa STEM Council Teacher Extern Mentor. Greg received the QCESC STEM Teacher of the Year in 2014, named the Outstanding Young Educator of the Year by the Jaycees of the Quad Cities in 2016 and in 2017 was selected as the I.O.W.A. Southeast STEM Teacher of the year. His robotics and engineering teams have received many accolades including the 2017 FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship Inspire Award, the 2017 FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship Rookie All-Star, and the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Seven Rivers Regional Chairman’s Award. He has co-led several international trips with his robotic teams to Kenya and Germany. He currently resides in Bettendorf.
Chris Hebel
Chris Hebel earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1981. He has been employed by Exelon Corporation at Quad Cities Generating Station for over 34 years, in various positions. Chris’ most recent position was Senior Engineer with responsibility for the Reactor Vessel and Internals Program prior to retiring recently. Chris currently resides in Port Byron.
Communications Chair
Andrea Fitzpatrick
Andrea Fitzpatrick started with Deere & Company in Moline in 2014 working for the IT Department. In the years since she has worked several positions including database administrator, data migrations specialist, and developer for various data management applications. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
She has been a key volunteer in our community supporting FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Competitions for several years.
In addition to her FIRST volunteer activities, Andrea has led the start-up of “The Pledge of the Computing Professionals” Node at QCESC. The Pledge consists of a ceremony for computing professionals to take an oath of ethics with the intention to promote and recognize ethical and moral behaviors during their careers. She currently resides in Silvis.
STEM Coordinator
Sankari Kandasamy
Phone 505-301-1999
Sankari was born in India, moved to the United States in 2002. She is married to Namachivayam Ganesh with two children, who are both studying in the Pleasant Valley School District. Sankari finished her Bachelor’s degree in India and is currently going to school for a Secondary Teaching Degree. With her family, she has lived in Stamford,  Connecticut for 2 1/2 years; Albuquerque, New Mexico for 7 1/2 years; Cherry Hill, New Jersey for 1 year; and moved to the Quad Cities in the year 2012.
Sankari has been working as a Robotics coordinator and also a Substitute teacher in Pleasant Valley  School District from 2016. She currently is coaching FIRST LEGO League teams, FIRST LEGO League Junior teams, and FIRST Tech Challenge Teams in the Pleasant Valley School District. Previously, she worked at H & R Block for 4 years and Cardinal Health for a year.
She has volunteered in many places including as School PTA Secretary for a year and a PTA President for a year. She has also volunteered at the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center as a Data Analyst. For the past 5 years, she has volunteered at FIRST events in the Quad Cities. She currently resides in Bettendorf.
Scholarship Chair
Tom Hein
Phone 309-798-0556
Tom retired from Deere & Company in Moline, Illinois after 32 years of service. He was a leader of innovation and in evaluating and applying emerging technologies for the company, most recently focusing on information technology impacting Deere’s customer and product. He also supported research alliances with Universities, industry and standards groups. He served on the boards of the Object Management Group and the Automotive Industry Action Group. He has held various positions in manufacturing, engineering, and systems management during his 41-year career, including several entrepreneurial startups. Tom has a degree in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Illinois, Chicago. In retirement, Tom is continuing his focus on innovation and STEM literacy through community organizations. He currently resides in Moline.
Award Chair
Susan Eckert
Susan Eckert, RD, is a registered dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa and completed her internship at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa. Susan began her career at Iowa Lutheran Hospital, Des Moines, as a clinical and outpatient dietitian.  She then became a pediatric dietitian at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.  While staying home with her three children, Susan has worked as a nutrition support consultant for Visiting Nurse Services in New York and as an independent health and wellness educator in the Quad Cities.  She is a past recipient of Iowa’s Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award.
Susan has been involved with FIRST Robotics since 2010 as an FLL mentor, then coach and volunteer.  Her roles have expanded over the years to include various mentor and volunteer positions in all four programs of FIRST from the local to international level.  She was recognized as the 2014 State of Iowa FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Coach of the Year, 2016 QCESC Quad Cities STEM Volunteer of the Year with her family, and 2018 FLL World Festival Coach of the Year (Detroit).  She has been on the Quad Cities FLL/ FLL Jr. Kickoff Planning Team since launching in 2013 and was the 2019 Quad Cities FLL/FLL Jr. Event Volunteer Coordinator. She currently resides in Davenport.
Fundraising Chair
DJ O’Leary
D.J. O’Leary currently works for the Department of the Army as an HR Specialist. She has been there since April 2020. Prior to that she worked for Cobham Mission Systems for several years as an Inside Sales Rep. D.J. graduated from Upper Iowa University in May 2020 earning her MBA with an emphasis in General Management.
D.J. has been with QCESC since 2019. Her focus is on the fundraising efforts which supports scholarship opportunities and various QCESC activities. She is a key volunteer overseeing the annual silent auction at the QCESC awards banquet. She currently resides in Davenport.
Director Emeritus
Pat Barnes

Twitter @PatrickOBarnes

Pat Barnes is currently the QCESC Director Emeritus and has served since 1992 in various roles including three times as QCESC President.

Pat is John Deere’s Global Program Director for STEM & Youth Education.  This includes responsibly for John Deere’s youth education strategy,  investments and related volunteerism.   He works at John Deere’s World Headquarters in Moline in the Foundation & Citizenship Group. Throughout his career at John Deere, Pat has held technical positions and leadership roles in plant engineering, production engineering, quality assurance, product engineering, and Information Technology supporting engineering operations worldwide. This included  responsibility for an extended IT Team in Pune, India.Pat holds an Electrical Engineering Degree from Iowa State University and is a member of IEEE along with serving on numerous boards and committees including: Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Southeast Iowa STEM Advisory Board and the United Way of Quad Cities Area Education Council.

Pat has served as a volunteer for FIRST for 11+ years supporting all four FIRST programs.  This includes coordinating FIRST events in the Quad Cities and Judge Advisor for State Champions for FLL and FTC in Iowa.  In addition, he has judged at the FIRST World Championships and supported  FIRST events on four continents.