It’s Time to Start Celebrating, Michigan is First in FIRST.
By: John Burklow
Gov. Rick Snyder has often referred to FIRST Robotics as a “rock concert for nerds,” but when he joined TED Director Roger Curtis to meet with two outstanding Michigan FIRST teams, the event felt more like a Super Bowl for nerds.
This past April, high schoolers from all over the world met in St. Louis to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championships. The students compete in alliances made up of three teams, and this year two Michigan teams — Kalamazoo’s Stryke Force and Canton’s Team Lightning — were members of the grand prize winning alliance.
To honor their incredible achievement, Gov. Snyder and Director Curtis brought the two teams to the Capitol to personally congratulate them, much in the same way a president brings the Super Bowl champs to the White House.
“I’m proud of these students, and also the coaches, mentors, sponsors and parents who worked so hard to show the world the talent and innovation we have here in Michigan,” Gov. Snyder said. “FIRST Robotics brings science, technology, engineering and math to life. Team members learn skills they can use for the rest of their lives to solve challenging problems and follow a pathway to good-paying and rewarding careers.”
Over 15,000 students traveled to St. Louis to participate in the 2017 FIRST Championship. The competition was a four-day event where students from grades K-12 were entered in four, age-based, divisions. These divisions were split into FIRST Lego League Jr. (K-4), FIRST Lego League (4–8), FIRST Tech Challenge (7–12) and the flagship FIRST Robotics Competition (9–12).
Michigan is home to 450 teams throughout the state, including several teams in the Upper Peninsula. FIRST highlights the importance of STEM education as well as preparing students for the future of careers in technical and engineering positions. This program will have a lasting effect on students by giving them hands on skills that they will be able to rely on once they start professional careers.
“The most beneficial experience these students are receiving is the exposure to multiple pathways into Michigan’s talented workforce,” said Dir. Curtis. “These teams highlight how we can bring students, industry experts and schools together to help narrow our state’s talent gap and move Michiganders, their families and our economy forward.”
FIRST isn’t just going to impact students, it’s also going to start impacting Michigan’s economy. The world championship competition is going to be hosted in Detroit for the next three years which is estimated to generate around $90 million for Michigan’s economy.
The skills that students learn while competing in FIRST Robotics will prove to be critically important to further strengthening Michigan’s incredible reinvention.