team picture of the very first FIRST Canada team with Mark Breadner and Dean Kamen and team
FIRST Robotics Canada, a registered charity, was established in 2001 and incorporated in 2004 to inspire Canadian high school and elementary school students to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology, and engineering. The organization pursues its mission primarily by providing students with the opportunity to work in teams and receive assistance from expert adult mentors, to build robots, and participate in tournaments that feature on-field competitions, judged awards, and other forms of recognition. There is even the potential for university and college scholarships. The mission of FIRST Robotics Canada encompasses several key aspects: 1. Inspiring young people to pursue further studies and careers in science, technology, and engineering. 2. Celebrating science, technology, and engineering success through robotics competitions for elementary and secondary high school students. 3. Developing communication, leadership, and teamwork skills in our youth. 4. Engaging the community through mentorship, sponsorship, and event volunteering. The organization held its inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition in Canada at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga in 2002, thanks to privately raised funds. With continuous support from the private sector and donations from the public sector, including the province of Ontario and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, FIRST Canada has experienced ongoing growth. A second high school regional event was added in Waterloo in 2005, along with additional tournaments for elementary school students. In 2004-2005, an expansion program was launched with funds donated by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), leading to the growth of FIRST teams, primarily in Ontario. This program also helped establish important relationships with Ontario’s school boards, colleges, and universities. As of 2019, over 250 FRC teams involved more than 7,500 students, 1,000 mentors, and 2,000 volunteers. In the elementary FIRST Lego League Program, over 1,000 teams across Canada compete in over 60 individual qualifying and provincial championships, with over 20,000 students, 1,000 mentors, and 500 volunteers. Additionally, the FIRST Lego League Explore Program has over 350 teams across Canada, involving more than 1,500 students. FIRST Robotics Canada engages over 30,000 youth in exciting competition-based robotics programs. The organization acknowledges the invaluable contribution of dedicated teachers, mentors, and volunteers in making these programs successful.
Mark Breadner and Gord Homer co-founded FIRST Robotics Canada, with Mark handling day-to-day operations and Gord serving as Chair of the Board and handling fundraising.
Man in a black shirt with a FIRST Canada Logo

About Mark Breadner

Mark started out his career as a systems engineer and marketing representative with IBM Canada. Thankfully, for the benefit of the FIRST community, Mark transitioned over to teaching and school administration, and he then discovered FIRST. Mark Breadner co-founded the first ever FIRST Robotics team from Canada in 1998 at Woburn Collegiate in Toronto. He was awarded the Championship Woodie Flowers Award in 2008. Since that year, Mark has been a pivotal figure and tremendous leader in the FIRST community. He was the FIRST Robotics Administrator for the Toronto School Board in 2002 and 2003. Then, Mark served as Director of Canadian Association for Student Robotics (now FIRST Robotics Canada). From 2010 to 2021, Mark served as the President of FIRST Robotics Canada. Robotics education runs in Mark’s family, as his wife Rhona shared Mark’s vision and passion for inspiring students through the use of robotics and STEM. Rhona and their three kids have all volunteered extensively with FIRST Canada for many years. Upon retiring in June 2021 as the President, a special fund was created in honour of FIRST Robotics Canada co-founder Mark Breadner and Rhona Breadner who shared a passion for FIRST and have contributed countless volunteer hours to the organization. The Fund will support projects identified by Mark that will advance FIRST’s strategic plan initiatives that specifically focus on students. Click here to learn more about the Mark and Rhona Breadner FIRST Canada Fund and/or to contribute.

headshot of Gord Homer wearing tie smiling

About Gord Homer

Gord Homer served as Chair of the Board from 2001-2010 and has been a director and member of the Executive Advisory Board ever since. He also served on the worldwide Board of FIRST from 2006-2013, was on the Board's Steering Committee and was the Chair of the worldwide Audit Committee. Gord is also currently on the HBS Club of Toronto Board and was on the HBS World Alumni Board and HBS Canadian Fellowship Committee in the past.