Experience as diverse as the problems we solve

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Our team thrives at the intersection of industry and technology, predictably and reliably creating new approaches to unique problems.

 

Our Team

 

The First Mode team has decades of combined experience in design, analysis, assembly, test, and deployment of innovative solutions in the space, natural resources, automotive, and high-tech sectors. This experience includes significant responsibility for the success of NASA’s Mars Exploration and Rover programs.

 
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CHRIS VOORHEES

President & Chief Engineer

Chris oversees the design, development, and deployment of engineered solutions for projects around the globe and throughout the solar system. Chris has decades of experience in the implementation of robotic systems for the exploration of deep space, including as mobility systems engineer for NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers and lead mechanical engineer for NASA's Curiosity rover. For his efforts, Chris received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement and Exceptional Engineering Achievement medals. 

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RHAE ADAMS

VP of Strategy & Business Development

Rhae helps First Mode’s client companies harness the tools and technologies of space exploration to innovate in industries as diverse as natural resources, firearm safety, and clean technology. Rhae was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his work at Planetary Resources where he created the first economic models for the commercial exploration and mining of natural resources from asteroids. He was also the founder of Accenture Strategy’s Commercial Space group.

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MAGGIE SCHOLTZ

Senior Mechanical Engineer

Maggie regularly tackles unknown engineering challenges including asteroid resource extraction modeling, drilling into the compositionally unknown crust of Mars, and negotiating resources across complex systems. Maggie’s background is in mechanical systems for complex interplanetary spacecraft. She has run technical teams at NASA JPL and Planetary Resources working on drilling and sampling mechanisms, scientific instrument suites, and 3D printed propulsion modules.

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JOSH SWEERE

Principal Systems Engineer

Josh leads efforts in a variety of industries at First Mode, seeking out holistic and innovative ways to solve the complex challenges facing organizations today. He leverages his technical experience in electrical systems and product lifecycle design management to bring solutions to life. This includes work in electrification, clean technology, and system management.

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ELIZABETH FRANK, Ph.D.

Applied Planetary Scientist

Elizabeth is an expert at bridging the gap between science and engineering with a focus on driving innovation in the robotic exploration of our solar system. Outside of the aerospace sector, her Ph.D. in geology also enables her to tackle problems here on planet Earth such as in mining, agriculture, and other related sectors.

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BRIAN GEDDES

Principal Software Engineer

Brian leads teams in the development of embedded software, firmware, and user interface elements. His deep understanding and experience in architecting software solutions for safety-critical systems is regularly deployed across the solar system. With over 15 years of experience developing testing software at Intel, Brian is well versed in the debug and validation of systems that need to work the first time, every time.

 
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COLIN BATESON, Ph.D.

Mechanical & Thermal Engineer

Colin is a mechanical engineer specializing in energy, fluids, dynamic environments testing, and thermal analysis. Past projects include the thermal architecture and analysis of a deep space optical communication device as well an investigation of option space for on-demand, low-altitude remote sensing of soil moisture for industrial applications.

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DAVID GERHARDT, Ph.D.

Senior Systems Engineer

David is a systems engineer at heart, negotiating between teams to transform ideas into reality. His expertise includes feasibility assessment, requirements development, and operations management. He served as the Lead Systems Engineer for flagship satellite missions at the University of Colorado, GomSpace, and Planetary Resources.

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KRUNAL DESAI

Principal Electrical Engineer

Krunal has a decade of electronics design experience across aerospace, consumer products, industrial, and automotive applications through the entire product lifecycle. He is especially well versed in the development of high-reliability systems for extreme environments, including radiation-sensitive applications. He leads First Mode’s electrical engineering team.

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JOSH WEISS

Mechanical Engineer

Josh is a mechanical systems engineer with an interest in modifying commercial components to survive harsh environments of all kind, from deserts to space. Josh’s work experience includes optical instrument accommodation for multiple spacecraft, environmental testing of space-based hardware, and mining industry sensor analysis.

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RILEY CHAPIN

Robotics Engineer

Riley has a background in embedded software and robotics with a focus on test development and execution. This includes the development of power, communications, and computing architecture for a deep-space, sub-surface asteroid probe and agricultural field testing campaigns using a variety of sensors and testing platforms.

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CLARA SEKOWSKI

Systems Engineer

Clara focuses on keeping complex systems operating in a nominal state through modeling, analysis, and system integration. This includes extensive experience in the design and execution of test campaigns, metrology, and custom sensor configuration. This often includes the creation of a custom data pipeline and analysis tool.

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PETER ILLSLEY

Principal Mechanical & Thermal Engineer

Peter designed and developed mechanical and thermal systems for several NASA Earth-orbiting and interplanetary missions. He was also responsible for the vehicle-level integration of the Opportunity and Curiosity Rovers for spacecraft assembly, test, and launch operations.

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SPENCER ANUNSEN

Senior Mechanical Engineer

Spencer brings a robust background in mechanical systems to system-level problems, including optomechanics, structures and configurations, and integration. At First Mode, Spencer works closely with deep space and terrestrial customers to develop structural elements, mechanisms, and accommodations for a range of complex payloads.

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LINDSEY YEATES

Talent & Recruiting Manager

Lindsey leads the talent and recruiting strategy at First Mode. She has over a decade of experience recruiting engineers, scientist, and business operations candidates. Previously, Lindsey was part of the recruiting duo that built a team of over 70 at Planetary Resources in Seattle.  

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CHRISTINE LIAO

Mechanical Engineer

Christine has a background in designing for fabrication, assembly, and maintenance repairs from her experiences in the aircraft industry. At First Mode, Christine applies her knowledge to successfully integrate structural components and mechanisms into complex systems exposed to terrestrial and deep space environments.

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TRISTAN HELMS

Manager, Space Business Development

Tristan combines an engineering foundation with business experience to create opportunities in complex industries, from new space to microelectromechanical sensors to semiconductors. He currently spearheads First Mode’s business development efforts across the space industry.

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SARAH BALLES

Mechanical Engineer

Sarah has a background in designing mechanical devices and support equipment within the aerospace and construction industries. She has developed structural components and custom tooling for use with a wide range of aircraft components as well as designed metal and composite repairs on military aircraft.

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Connor Hoppe

Strategy & Business Development

Connor brings to bear his experience advising companies ranging in size from Unicorn to Fortune 10 to help our clients adopt a systems engineering mindset to tackle their most pressing problems. He defines how cutting edge technology can cross industry boundaries to give our partners a competitive advantage.

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KATHLEEN HOZA

Systems Engineer

Kathleen’s background includes experience on both the engineering and science teams for NASA’s Curiosity rover. Through a diverse array of projects ranging from instrument design to spacecraft anomaly mitigation, she has developed a broad perspective on what it takes to successfully build and operate complex systems on and off the planet.

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