Mapping the Future of STEM

Mark McCombs

Founder of Renaissance Jax

TEDx Talk Speaker

Jacksonville, FL


Mark McCombs is changing the way
we see STEM and robotics, where
failure is not optional and STEM
programs are prolific.

“I keep a huge map of Jacksonville
with a dot where every school is and
how many teams we need to build
and sustain in order to hit the goals
that make companies want to flock
to our city,” said Mark McCombs,
Founder of Renaissance Jax and
TEDx Talk Speaker.

A man inspired by the inventor of
the electric car, Elon Musk, McCombs
aspires to build the next generation
of innovators in his own backyard
of Jacksonville, Florida. He is out
to change the world and fill it with
engineers, scientists, machinists and
visionaries – the next generation of
technologists shaping our society.
McCombs aims to draw companies
like Tesla to his home of Jacksonville
and get more children involved
with STEM.

“STEM is important for a ton of reasons. Mostly having to do with the grit that it instills in kids who actually try."

Mark McCombs
Founder of Renaissance Jax and TEDx Talk Speaker, Jacksonville, FL

His passion was first realized
during his involvement with
FIRST®. FIRST, in partnership with
LEGO® Education, is a non-profit
organization aimed at inspiring
young people to participate in
science and technology. FIRST
offers programs for students
K-12, like FIRST® LEGO® League,
where children are engaged in
playful, meaningful learning, while
promoting key skills in science,
technology, engineering, and
math. Children develop solutions
using LEGO® bricks and models,
to solve real-world problems and
compete in robotics competitions annually. FIRST® aims to inspire
tomorrow’s innovators through the
values of cooperation, problem solving,
critical thinking and play,
ultimately preparing students
for 21st century careers.

By 2020, 80% of future jobs will
require STEM skills.1 McCombs
saw the need to create a talentgenerating
engine to fill these jobs
and impact future generations. In
high school, he joined a FIRST®
Robotics Competition Team working
in a machine shop. He fell in love
with the competition and went on to
receive an engineering degree and
start clubs using the leadership skills
he gained in FIRST®. From there, he
became a coordinator at the school
from which he graduated. When
he left that position, he received
the resources to start his own
organization to provide the
resources for other students to
pursue STEM-related careers.

“STEM is important for a ton of
reasons,” said McCombs, “Mostly
having to do with the grit that it
instills in kids who actually try.” He
is familiar with failure and credits
those experiences as steps to his
current successes. “Every step I
learned along the way, I learned
in FIRST.” His advice to future
engineers and students in STEM-related
fields is, “Make mistakes,
build a robot, see what you’re made
of. Don’t back down. Learn to try
harder. Invent something. Play.
Laugh…Read the Apollo 11 flight
plan. Learn about what the things
you play with are made of…Get ready to do more with your life
than you ever thought possible.”

As Mark McCombs adds another
dot to his map of Jacksonville, he
continues to plant the seeds for
STEM-related careers and inspiring
the innovators of tomorrow.

Learn more about FIRST programs,

Learn more about LEGO® Education,

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