Since 1998, when Mark Breadner founded the original Canadian FIRST team, he has been an important figure in FIRST. Presentations to corporations procured the support of now long-standing sponsors, guaranteeing the prosperity of the movement he started for years to come. Mr. Breadner’s tenure as Canada’s Regional Director of FIRST, saw the formation of 73 FRC teams. Twenty-three were formed in 2002 when his efforts brought the first international regional competition to Canada. The Canadian Regional (now the Greater Toronto Regional) has become one of FIRST’s largest regionals, while the number of Canadian teams continues to grow.
Mr. Breadner has been an influential mentor on Team 188 for 11 years. His practical, innovative input and insight are always treated with the utmost respect. However, his genius is not always immediately obvious. Team alumnus Shawn Lim, remembers one of Mr. Breadner’s bold suggestions:
“Pantyhose – we need a piece of pantyhose right across the top. That’ll fix everything.”
It takes a gifted, deft communicator like Mr. Breadner to convince engineers and team members that the most effective solution was a woman’s undergarment. This ability to communicate allowed him to publicize the importance of FIRST in the early years and start the transformation of our society.
Even today, he is all about enthusiasm for FIRST. He created and integrated the Science, Math, and Technology program into Woburn Collegiate Institute’s curriculum, aiming to enhance the education of students in math, physics, and computer science. Its ultimate goal is to inspire a new generation of students to challenge themselves. Mr. Breadner’s infectious enthusiasm has also captured his family. His wife Rhona, along with his children Lauren, Chris, and Jessica, and parents Jim and Elsa frequently volunteer at FIRST events.
Many former students involved in FIRST today attribute their involvement to Mr. Breadner’s influence. Committee chair (Waterloo Regional) and Team 188 alumnus, Ian Mackenzie, is one of these people, asserting, “Mark Breadner has been a constant source of inspiration and guidance (and fun) from the start of [his] grade [nine] year up to the present day, working on [his] Master's degree in engineering.” The success stories extend beyond Ian. Two of his protégés, Karthik Kanagasabapathy and Shawn, have gone on to win Regional Woodie Flowers Awards. Karthik insists that Mr. Breadner is, “the most effective leader [he has] ever met, [knowing] how to get the most out of people, and how to set up an organization to function at his best.” This defines a true mentor, one who helps everyone fulfill their true potential. By interacting with them on a very personal level, Mr. Breadner builds the character of students, making them strong individuals who go on to contribute in the FIRST community.
Two such students were Ian and Karthik. Today, they run one of FIRST’s most successful teams. He is a true inspiration. Ian even goes as far as to say, “I can think of nobody else who has had such an extraordinary influence on who I am today.”
Team 1114 would not be around if not for the efforts of Ian and Karthik. But the efforts of Ian and Karthik would never have been possible without Mr. Breadner’s dream:
“FIRST – we need a piece of FIRST right across the country. That’ll fix everything.”
Thanks to all the time and effort Mr. Breadner has put into building FIRST in Canada, that dream is now a reality. He has demonstrated to others that hard work and passion are an unbeatable combination, one that has put Canada on the FIRST map. This is why many assert that “Mr. Breadner is FIRST in Canada.”