FIRST Robotics Season About To Begin; 29 New Teams In Michigan

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The Kettering Univerisity FIRST Robotics district competition March 3, 2012. Photo courtesy Kettering University.

The Kettering Univerisity FIRST Robotics district competition March 3, 2012. Photo courtesy Kettering University.

SOUTHFIELD — The deadline for high school robotics teams statewide to complete their unique creations for this year’s FIRST Robotics competition comes at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Then after a short break, the throng of thousands of Michigan’s future engineers, scientists, math experts and a new generation of a skilled work force will set out on a competition season with multiple tournaments taking place each weekend throughout the month of March and early April.

FIRST in Michigan continues to grow, with 207 high school teams participating this season. Also, new district competitions are scheduled for Temperance, Grand Blanc and St. Joseph, making for an action-packed 2013 season like no other before.

FIRST Robotics is not a traditional sporting event and it’s certainly not a rock concert — but it looks and sounds a bit like both. That’s the way many people describe the crazy, competitive, highly educational, all-out fun of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Others call it the varsity sport of the mind.

According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association web site, 214 schools sponsor boys swimming in the Lower Peninsula, and 170 offer hockey statewide.

“The growth of FIRST Robotics teams at all levels is very encouraging for our state, and to surpass the participation levels of some traditional, established sports teams is a great indicator of schools recognizing the needs of pursuing STEM type programs,” said Francois Castaing, chairman of the FIRST in Michigan Board. “Programs like FIRST Robotics are the starting point for rebuilding the skilled work force and economic engine drivers we need as these students will be filling the jobs pipeline soon.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is active in more than 35 percent of all Michigan high schools, making the Great Lakes State one of the highest participation rates in the country. The organization focuses on creating a high-energy environment that allows adult professional mentors to work side by side with high school students to show how much fun engineering, math, science and technology can be for a career choice.

The 2013 competition requires teams to play ultimate Frisbee with machines they design and build over a short six-week period.  At the end of each round, teams earn extra points if their robots can climb a ladder-like tower and score the Frisbee into the goal at the top.

“This year’s game design is extremely challenging and will require even more brainstorming than has been needed in the past,” Castaing said. “We’re happily anticipating the engineering marvels and creativity our talented Michigan students will come up with for 2013.”   There are 11 Michigan district events now, enabling all Michigan teams to each compete two times within the state. Similar to sports tournament formats, district competition scoring will then qualify teams for the 2013 Michigan State Championship, April 11-13 at Eastern Michigan University. From there, 27 teams will be eligible to advance to the international FIRST National Championship in St. Louis, April 24-27.

Michigan teams have been on the winning alliance at seven of the last nine National Championships.

All competitions are free and open to the public.   2013 District Events:     March 1-2: Kettering University District, Flint; Traverse City Central High School District, Traverse City March 8-9: Gull Lake High School District, Richland; Waterford Mott High School District, Waterford Township. March 15-16: Detroit District, Wayne State University; St. Joseph High School District, St. Joseph. March 22-23: West Michigan District, Grand Valley State University, Allendale; Grand Blanc High School District, Grand Blanc. March 29-30: Livonia Chuchill High School Disrict, Livonia; Troy Athens High School District, Troy. April 5-6: Bedford High School District, Temperance.

FIRST in Michigan is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization responsible for implementing all FIRST programs in the state. Some $16 million in college scholarships are available this year nationwide for FIRST students only.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge for high-school students, FIRST Lego League for children 9 to14 years old, and Junior FIRST Lego League for 6 to 9 year-olds.

To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

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