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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.

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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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.

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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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