Advisory Board

Brenda Payne serves as the Director of the California Invention Convention. Brenda’s career in education began at a northern California magnet school for gifted and talented learners. It was there she introduced a curriculum in inventions to her 3rd and 4th grade students that spread throughout the district. She later became principal at a K-8 project-based learning school in Sonoma County, followed by principal of Natural Bridges Elementary School in Santa Cruz, assistant principal at Mission Hill Middle School, and finally principal at Main Street Elementary School in Soquel Union Elementary School District. In fall of 2015 she served as interim superintendent/principal at Pacific Elementary School District in Davenport. It was there that she brought Invention Education full circle back to the 5th/6th grade students at Pacific School, where 4 of the winners from that event continued on to the National Invention Convention Entrepreneurship Expo competition that took place at the US Trade and Patent Office in Alexandria Virginia. In September, 2016 she led the first state California Invention Convention competition and has continued to provide fund development, program development, professional development and support to teachers and districts. Brenda’s goal is to bring invention and entrepreneurial skills education to students throughout the state of California.

Anne Cawley serves as Director of Communications and Development for the California Invention Convention. Ann previously worked high-tech both in major companies and as a consultant in marketing and sales, product development, and business development until she retired in 2006.  She came out of retirement to work with the United Way of Santa Cruz County as Co-Director of Marketing and Community Engagement.  In 2013, she retired (again!), until becoming involved with the California Invention Convention in spring of 2016.  Her duties range from creating and maintaining the web site, creating brochures and other marketing materials, assisting with running the Invention Convention, supporting the Professional Development Training and generally helping where she can.

Carrie Birkhofer serves on the advisory board for the California Invention Convention. Carrie is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Bay Federal Credit Union and has more than 30 years’ experience in the credit union industry.   The Credit Union is dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of the people in the community by expanding economic opportunity in our region, providing access to locally funded financial products and services, and creating an award winning work culture.  She has served on numerous boards including the Cabrillo College Foundation, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and Rotary.  Carrie’s passion for education led her to be a co-founder of Bridges to Kinder Preschool and to create a free financial education program for students in partnership with local schools. Carrie is a Certified Public Accountant and graduated with a BA, Business Economics from University of California, Santa Barbara. As an advisor for California Invention Convention, she looks forward to seeing the light shine in the eyes of the children as they create solutions to the problems they discover.

Donald R. Boys serves on the advisory board for the California Invention Convention. Don is President of Central Coast Patent Agency, a full-service Patent Law firm operating on the California Central Coast for twenty-five years, and specializing in rapidly creating patent portfolios for start-up companies and patents for established companies and for independent inventors. He is a member of the Federal Patent Bar and is a Professional Mechanical Engineer. Don graduated from Purdue University in Indiana with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering; worked in aerospace engineering at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in Hartford CT.; worked with General Motors for thirteen years developing robotic and automatic processing equipment; developed automated vacuum systems and magnetically-enhanced sputtering equipment for Varian Associates for seven years; founded Lodep Engineering (which merged with Genus, Inc. to develop one of the first cluster tools) and then moved into the intellectual property world in 1988.

Claire Castagna serves on the advisory board for the California Invention Convention. Claire has over thirty-six years in public education as an elementary bilingual teacher, principal, and mentor for Santa Cruz City Schools, the Santa Cruz New Teacher Center and most recently as Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for the Sunnyvale School District. She earned her Master’s degree in Linguistics from Cal State Long Beach and holds teaching credentials in Elementary Multiple Subjects, Secondary Spanish, Bilingual Bi-cultural Education, TESOL and School Administration. Since retirement in 2014, Claire has continued to be professionally involved as a tutor and trainer for the Literacy Program of the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County.  She is a lifelong advocate for public education and especially for a system that empowers teachers and students as the key drivers to learning. She is excited about supporting the development of the CA Invention Convention as a means to deeply engage students and their families in learning.

Scott M. Colquitt serves on the advisory board for the California Invention Convention. Scott is an executive leader and talent development coach who focuses on helping companies turn obstacles into opportunities through organizational development, strategic management and digital transformations. Scott has provided the perspectives from the global electronics manufacturing giant, FLEX, along with ten years of managing logistics and performing (bass guitar and percussion) for the US Army Bands in which he served throughout the US and Europe. Scott served as his unit’s Information Management Non-Commissioned Officer and Operations Non-Commissioned Officer. One of his most memorable operations events was organizing the 50th Anniversary host relations events for the 76th Army Band during the Battle of the Bulge commemoration event in Bastogne, Belgium in 1995. Scott recently left his role as VP, Information Technology to pursue smaller and more locally impactful opportunities for both profit and not for profit organizations.

Grinell Smith serves on the advisory board for the California Invention Convention. Grinell is an associate professor of education in the Lurie College of Education at San Jose State University. Dr. Smith specializes in sociological foundations of education and inquiry science instruction and has been involved in K-12 science education for 19 years, first as a science teacher and lead instructor and science curriculum developer for the University of Alabama’s award-winning Integrated Science program from 1993 to 2004, where he received recognition as the nation’s best K-12 distance educator. At San Jose State, he leverages his expertise as a member of the Teacher Education department, helping K-8 teachers develop in the use of inquiry approaches to science education, and has extensive experience planning, instructing, and facilitating STEM teacher professional development programs, logging hundreds of hours as an in-service provider in connection with several NASA, NSF, and privately funded projects. He is an active scholar whose work examines the role of high-stakes assessment and other recent trends on school practice, instruction, and teacher preparation. His scholarship, teaching, and service is informed by a holistic view of the teacher and the student, and his overarching goal is to help teachers, students, and communities move beyond current narrow conceptions of the purpose of schooling toward more progressive ideals.

"Kids Inventing Their Future"