June 2011 Wilmer Memorial Lecture

Joel Carter

Joel Carter

    The speaker for the annual Wilmer Memorial Lecture is renowned in the toy and invention worlds. Joel Carter is Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Innovation First International, the global technology company that makes the Hexbug and other robotic educational toys. Carter's latest creation, HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creatures, was recently chosen as specialty Toy of the Year, and the number one bestselling toy of last year.

    The Wilmer Lecture will be Saturday, June 4, at the Silver Spur Theater at 3 p.m. Carter will talk about his company's invention, the Hexbug and its companion Hex toys, and the company's commitment to making educational toys that foster interest in science and technology. The title of his talk will be: Global Technology Innovation and Education: Preparing the Next Generation. The Wilmer lecture, as always, is FREE and open to the public. A reception will follow.

    Innovation First originally began producing electronics for unmanned mobile ground robots, and is now an industry leader in educational and toy robotics. Carter led the team who won the Best of Innovation Award in Robotics at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show for inventing the VEX Robotics Design System serving the education and hobby markets. In 2007, he also received the Excellence in Design award from Children's Technology Review for VEX.

    The original HexBug — a six-legged beetle-like micro-robot — debuted in 2007, selling more than 1 million units at RadioShack stores. The toy is a combination of computer programming and innovated mechanical engineering.

    Before joining the team at Innovation First, Carter was divisional vice president of Radio Shack where he was responsible for the overall RadioShack retail brand experience, positioning and brand planning. He also managed the $1 billion RadioShack product brand, private label brands and licensed brands portfolio.

    Carter began his marketing career in advertising at The Richards Group in Dallas in 1982. He was then recruited by Tracy-Locke/BBDO as a founding member of a newly established direct marketing group, which he helped grow to $40 million in billings during his six-year tenure. Key clients included IBM, Frito-Lay, Princess Cruises and Pepsi.

    He then served as Vice President and Management Supervisor with international advertising agency Publicis where he launched Cellular One, the first nationwide cellular service brand. This led to a position at famed ad agency Ogilvy & Mather where he was named Partner and Group Management Supervisor over the account of telecommunications giant GTE.

    Carter is the son of the late Texas State Artist, John Carter, of Killeen. He received his advertising degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982, where he was selected Outstanding Student in Advertising his senior year.

    Although is background is advertising and marketing, Carter's passion, as well as his company's, is making science fun by introducing students to technology-based toys. "Toys are not our primary business," Carter said. "We're really an engineer- and design-driven company, building high-end educational robotics for middle school, high school and university science."

    Carter and his company hope their products will help spur student interest in the science and technology fields and encourage graduates top pursue degrees in theses fields. According to Carter: "Very few Americans realize there is a shortage of students entering US secondary schools with the aim of becoming scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. The US currently graduates about 65,000 degreed engineers annually to fill over 150,000 open jobs!"

    This is the sixth Annual Wilmer Memorial Lecture which honors the two Harry Wilmer's who were instrumental in founding the Institute for the Humanities.The purpose of the Wilmer Memorial Lecture is not only to remember Harry and Hank Wilmer but also to remember other children and family members who have died and to celebrate life, death and spirit of humanity in the community. This lectureship combines The Harry Wilmer II lectureship, formerly held in January, with the Harry Wilmer III (Hank) Wilmer Memorial Lecture, held in June. The Wilmer Lecture has been an annual event since 1998, following the death of Hank Wilmer (Harry Wilmer III).

    The Wilmer family and the Institute for the Humanities at Salado created The Wilmer Fund to perpetuate the memory of both men and help support the organization they created. That fund supports the annual Wilmer Memorial Lecture as well as other designated lectures and events that represent the Institute's mission and the Wilmers' legacy.