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Mark Buckner

It’s hard to quantify the impact Dr B has made as a FIRST mentor: over 10,000 lives impacted, 280 teams enriched, 120 mentors inspired, 110+ events organized, 45 organizations reached, 17+ years in FIRST, a mentor in all 4 FIRST programs, & 3 teams led. The numbers don’t lie; Dr B is dedicated to spreading the word of FIRST & inspiring the next generation. However, these numbers cannot begin to describe the patience, creativity, support, enthusiasm, guidance, & motivation that Dr B provides on a daily basis.- . His dedication to FIRST & inspiring innovators is unmatched, & Team 4265’s success has not been possible without his patience, creativity, enthusiasm, guidance, & motivation.

“Make your work visible” is his daily mantra & while usually directed at our team, his life revolves around making FIRST visible.  With just Sharpies, a wall, & some Post-Its, he ignites a spark of innovation, breaking down the hardest engineering principles into bite sized concepts. Using models, videos, & real life examples he helps us prototype to grow our skills. It is priceless to be able to approach him with questions & then walk away and teach the same concept! Through his vision our capabilities have grown exponentially.

He serves on TNFIRST’s Board as Team Development & Sustainability Chair & was recognized in 2019 as IRI Mentor of the Year, yet his commitment isn’t restricted to FIRST. He was one of Smart Industry’s 50 top innovators & presented at NIWeek in 2016. His 2021 nomination for TN Air Force Association Teacher of the year & recognition as a 2022 Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary International highlights what a gifted mentor we have.

Over the years he’s worn many hats: distinguished research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Agile Transformation Consultant for Scrum, Inc., patents holder, adjunct professor, & now Founder of Oak Ridge High School’s iSchool program and Wildcat Manufacturing a student run enterprise providing digital design and manufacturing services to local individuals and businesses. Yet, Dr B believes the key to take on the world’s gnarly problems is in the creativity of the next generation. In May 2021 he won a 1.2 million dollar Innovative High School Model grant to start iSchool - where he now works to build students who are skillful, critical thinkers & collaborators to be able generate innovative solutions to real-world problems.

In iSchool’s Wildcat Manufacturing, students work with businesses to design and manufacture products giving them real-world experience & allowing them to make money in the process. Students have worked with Oak Ridge Associated University to design & manufacture awards & 4265 Alum Nate Bailey is partnering with them to prototype a cabinet system he has patented to solve a real world problem in his business.

Dr B is also working to create digital twins of local businesses for students to help them improve processes by applying all he has taught them. He’s preparing us for our future success by teaching Agile & Lean Principles and helping us get certifications that are marketable.

Dr B believes everyone on our team has the ability to contribute. In his words, “We are smarter than Me any day of the week, & WE are realizing our potential to change the world.” He compels us to, “Passionately Pursue Perfection & Catch Excellence”. He’s not afraid to see us fail, allowing the process to fulfill its end before the question is asked, “what happened & how can you solve it”? He believes it’s a mentors’ job to teach concepts, but up to students to do the work! Dr B always encourages us to never be satisfied & that something can always be improved upon, including ourselves.

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