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Teacher works with two students at Havens Elementary
Headshot of 2023 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award winner Dave Ragones

The Piedmont Unified School District is proud to announce Piedmont Makers President & Co-Founder, Dave Ragones as its recipient of the 2023 Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award.

“David has championed STEAM and other educational activities in Piedmont for over 10 years,” said PUSD Interim Superintendent, Dr. Donald Evans. “He has partnered with schools to increase equity in computer classes at our high schools, has organized a Robotics League involving hundreds of students, and initiated the first school Maker Faire in the country that is still going strong. He is a valuable partner to our District, a strong supporter of our students, and is well-deserving of this award.”

A Piedmont resident since 2009, Ragones co-founded Piedmont Makers in 2014 as a nonprofit dedicated to support and inspire K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education in Piedmont & beyond. Piedmont Makers has been the driving force behind the growth of robotics in Piedmont. With the vision of creating a place for students to succeed beyond academics and athletics, robotics has expanded from a single high school team in 2015 to 60 teams and 400+ students participating across grades K-12 in the 2022-2023 academic year.  In 2020, Ragones and Piedmont Makers partnered with PUSD on a fundraising campaign for the new Engineering Lab in the STEAM Building which ultimately raised $420,000 to outfit the lab with world-class digital fabrication equipment, and a lab manager to work with teachers and students. The Engineering Lab opened its doors in January 2022, providing a capstone facility for teachers, students, and the world championship-qualifying Highlander Robotics team. 

In 2014, Ragones and Piedmont Makers partnered with PUSD to hold the first K-12 Piedmont School Maker Faire which serves as an annual showcase of STEAM education in Piedmont with student and community projects highlighted. PUSD was the first school district in the nation to host an official K-12 School Maker Faire in partnership with Maker Education and serves as the template for other schools globally. Also in 2014, he worked closely with PUSD administration to adopt K-12 Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) standards - one of the first districts in the country to do so.  

“Without Dave Ragones, there’s no Piedmont Makers, no annual School Maker Faire, no Tech Socials, no Makerspace events, no FIRST Robotics in Piedmont for the 400 kids that participate, no Team 8033 at Worlds in Houston and probably no Mary G. Ross Engineering Lab at the STEAM building,” wrote Piedmont Makers Board Member, Larraine Seiden, in nominating Ragones for the award.  “All of these endeavors require thousands of hours of volunteer effort from dozens of volunteers that Dave has inspired to get involved. His work has impacted hundreds of kids in Piedmont and throughout the Bay Area.”

In addition to Piedmont Makers, Ragones currently serves on the board of the Piedmont Baseball-Softball Foundation, and has served on the board of the Piedmont Education Foundation.  He is also a long-time Piedmont youth sports coach for baseball, soccer, and softball, and has built a 25-year career in technology working for companies such as Salesforce, NVIDIA, and SAP SuccessFactors.

The Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award is presented annually to individuals who have volunteered their efforts over a period of time and made a difference because of their involvement and commitment to Piedmont’s youth. Arthur ‘Art’ Hecht was a tireless community volunteer dedicated to students in both Piedmont and Oakland. He served on Piedmont’s Board of Education from 1970 to 1982, and was very active with the Piedmont Continuation High School (now called Millennium High School). In 1998, the Volunteer of the Year Award was established in his memory.

Previous recipients include: Hunter McCreary (1998); Ann Chandler (1999); Ruth Cuming (2000); Lisa Lomenzo (2001); jointly by Cathie Geddeis and Marion Souyoultzis (2002); jointly by Fritz and Mary Wooster (2003); Elizabeth (Betsy) Gentry (2004); Cynthia Gorman (2005); Grier Graff (2006); Julia Burke (2007); Maude Pervere (2008); jointly to Anne-Marie Lamarche and Mark Menke (2009); Janiele Maffei Tovani (2010); Andrea Swenson (2011), June Monach (2012), Bill Drum (posthumously) and Mary Ireland  (2013), Ray Perman (2014), Jennifer Fox (2015), Katie Korotzer (2016), Hilary Cooper (2017) Holly Hanke (2018), Cathy Glazier (2019), Sue Smegal (2020), Ken Li (2021) and Eileen Ruby (2022).

Ragones will be officially honored at the May 10, 2023, meeting of the PUSD Board of Education.