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Our Team


Engineers.  Educators.  Technology Specialists.  We are community-minded individuals with a passion for sharing our years of experience with the next generation of innovators. 

Walt Silva

Founder & President


Walt received his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Master's degree in Computer Science from Union College.  For over 10 years, he's been involved in submarine development; originally working at Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. and then at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, where he currently works as a Lead Engineer.  Walt was also a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and Navy Reserve before being honorably discharged.  Walt lives in Delanson with his wife and two daughters.



Jimmy Burns

Vice President


Jimmy grew up in New Jersey and spent a majority of his life focused on a career in motorsports.  He is an accomplished racecar driver with experience in karts, sprint cars, stock cars and modifieds on both dirt and asphalt tracks.  Aside from his desire to drive, Jimmy has served as a driving school instructor, race team manager, crew chief, NASCAR official and a NASCAR team engineer. Jimmy completed his Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  In 2007, Jimmy joined the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory where he currently works as a welding engineer supporting the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

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Lisa Meaney



Lisa grew up in Western New York and received a Bachelor's in Landscape Architecture from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Upon graduation, she worked for 15 years at various public and private entities as a Cartographer, utilizing ArcGIS. In 2008, Lisa returned to college for a career change and received an Associate's degree in Health Information Technology which enables her to work at home as a Medical Coder. She currently lives in Cobleskill, where she and her husband Dan homeschool their daughter, an avid fan of STEM. 

Julie Drexel

Director of Development


Julie grew up in the area, receiving degrees in Paralegal and Office Automation from Schenectady County Community College. Since 2000, her focus has been in the retirement and financial services industry. Julie currently works in the Commercial Division of SEFCU. Julie lives in Duanesburg with her husband Mike and son Tyler who has participated in the SMIST programs.

Abigail Vander Veen

YMCA Liaison


Abby grew up locally in Delanson on her family’s dairy farm. She graduated from SUNY Cortland with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 2013. Since graduating from SUNY Cortland, Abby has worked at the Duanesburg Area Community Center (now the Duanesburg YMCA) in several different positions. She now serves as Membership and Program Director of the Duanesburg YMCA where she oversees member services, program development and summer camp. Abby currently lives in Delanson.

Cheska Robinson

Communications and Social Media Director


Cheska is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, where she worked as a wildlife biologist intern. She relocated to New York's Capital Region where she pursued a career in education and completed her Master in Science Education and Instructional Technology at The College of Saint Rose. She wrote a monthly column for the National Science Teachers' Association "Science Scope" journal, and presented as conference speaker on teacher professional networks. Cheska currently teaches middle school science at Schoharie High School, and loves trying new STEAM projects with her students. She currently lives in Delanson with her husband and stepson. 

Sue Larabee

Community Outreach Director

Susan was born in Pennsylvania and moved to upstate New York after serving in the USAF. Once in the Albany area, she worked as an administrative assistant until completing her master’s degree in physical therapy at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. After college, she moved to East Berne where she has lived for 18 years with her husband. She currently works at the Spotted Zebra Preschool as a pediatric physical therapist. She has a son who is very interested in STEAM activities which is how she became involved in SMIST.

Nicole O'Connor

Treasurer ​

Nicole is originally from the Schoharie area and grew up with an interest in STEAM, focusing on architecture and engineering, as well as computers. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business
Administration at the University of Phoenix. She spent much of her younger years working in the telecommunications industry in an account management role and moved on to work in a customer
care/project management role at an engineering search engine. After having children, Nicole was determined to be able to stay at home with her children while continuing to bring in an income and as a result, is currently self employed as a Virtual Assistant and Project Coordinator. In addition to her self- employment, Nicole is also the Treasurer for the Village of Delanson. She lives in Delanson with her three sons and husband and has joined the SMIST board due to not only her, but her sons’ enjoyment
and interest in STEAM.

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Demarcus Hamm

Board Member


Demarcus is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and came to the Northeast to attend Union College and Union Graduate College.  He graduated with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering.  Since graduating from Union Graduate College, Demarcus has been working at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.  Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory is responsible for the development, support, and training of submarine nuclear reactors.  He currently lives in Schenectady.

Tom Buckton

Board Member

Tom grew up in upstate NY and received his Bachelor's degree in aeronautial and mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institue and his MBA from SUNY Empire State College.  His career has spanned multiple industries from public school design to waterpark design to cannon manufacturing for the US Army.  He currently works as the program manager for the next generation attack submarine at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.  Tom lives in Rotterdam with his wife and his daughter and son.

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Amy Wood

Board Member

Amy attended the Criminal Justice Program at Schenectady County Community College while working administratively in the
medical field. She eventually moved to Purchasing and Procurement working for Intermagnetics, Plug Power, and Sprint. Amy mcurrently works for the Administration Division at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Amy is a Past Secretary for the Schoharie
EPTSO and Fundraising Committee Chairperson, as well as the previous Administrative Coordinator for the Duanesburg Tae
Kwon Do School. Amy and her family live in Esperance, NY.

Linda Fasano

Board Member

Linda is from Central NY, and attended SUNY Fredonia (Music Ed), and the University of Buffalo and UAlbany (Library Science).  She settled in the Capital District in 1993, after working for the Queens Borough Public Library System in NYC. Linda found her niche working for Schalmont Central Schools as a middle school librarian for the past 25 years.  She has also been employed as an adjunct instructor in the UAlbany’s School Library Media grad program. Having a great passion for STEAM and being a maker all her life, she was inspired to create a makerspace in her school library for students to pursue their own aspirations and creative innovations.

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Denise Zieske

Board Member

Denise grew up in the region and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Drew University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University at Albany. She is currently the Director of Workforce Development at the State University of New York (SUNY). Her career has included work in many aspects of economic and workforce development and she has held positions at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Tech Valley High School, Center for Economic Growth and Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. Denise lives in Knox and her son’s interest and participation in SMIST activities led her to join the board.

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