YPSILANTI — A three team alliance of Bloomfield International Academy, Utica Schools and Romeo Engineering & Tech Center won the Michigan state title in FIRST Robotics Saturday, earning trip to the World Championships in St. Louis in two weeks.

The state’s top 64 teams from 11 district tournaments around the state the prior six weekends came together at the FIRST in Michigan State Championship at the Convocation Center on the campus of Eastern Michigan.

The runner-up alliance of Huron Valley Schools, Hopkins High and Grand Blanc High won the first of three matches by accumulating the second highest one-round score of the entire three-day tournament, but the champion alliance came back to take the last two matches and earn the state crown.

More than 2,000 people attended the event, in which teams designed robots to toss Frisbees into targets on a 27-by-54-foot playing field.

Roughly 5,000 high school students across the state are members of 206 FIRST teams that design and build robots to accomplish a specific task during a six-week “build season” in January and February.   Then, on Fridays and Saturdays throughout March, the students compete in 11 district events held around the state.   The top 64 teams from these competitions qualify for the state championships.

Teams raise money to pay for their expenses in building the robot and create Web sites to build publicity and awareness — meaning there’s room in FIRST for learning about media, public relations, nonprofit management, and much more than robotics engineering and construction.

Thanks to FIRST sponsors, the atmosphere at FIRST competitions rivals the best of high school athletics — complete with cheering crowds, pounding music, sophisticated lighting and video systems, and team mascots. The difference from athletics, though, is that at a FIRST competition, virtually every competitor in the room has a realistic chance of “going pro” — in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

During the round-robin preliminary portion of the competition, teams are assigned to three-team “alliances” at random. Based on their records earned during this phase of the competition, teams were seeded from 1 to 64. After two days of seeding matches, the top eight seeded teams chose two alliance partners with which they stayed for the elimination phase of the contest — quarterfinals, and, if they win, the semifinals and finals of the event.

In the elimination phase, like a sports tournament, the No. 1 seed starts the quarterfinals against the No. 8 seed, No. 2 plays No. 7, No. 3 plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5. The top four seeds all advanced to the semifinals, and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds won the semifinals to advance to the finals. The finals were a bit of an upset, as the No. 2 seeded alliance beat No. 1 in a best-of-three competition that went all three matches.

To view a photo gallery of the event, click here. We’ve also got podcasts with Lena Briggs, a senior at Bloomfield Hills International Academy, here; Mark Garver, FIRST Robotics head referee, here; and Bekah May, a senior at Bedford High School, here.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder attended the morning portion of the competition Saturday as a guest of event sponsor Robert Bosch LLC.

“As a proud nerd, this is probably the easiest event to get me to come to of my term,” Snyder told Bosch’s guests in the Convocation Center’s Eagles Nest suite. “I’m fired up and I hope you are too.”

Snyder said FIRST was a good example of what he calls the 3 C’s of education: Collaboration “with the private sector, to understand their needs for future talent,” creating talent, and connections.

“One of the best ways to get young people excited about future opportunities is mentorship,” Snyder said, adding that he had many mentors as a young accountant and business advisor. “Now that I’m an old guy I can tell you, the mentor also learns from the mentee,” he added.

Tom Stephens, retired vice chairman and chief technology officer of General Motors, delivered an impassioned pitch for FIRST at the event, saying he wanted it available at every high school in Michigan, as sports programs are. He said that nearly 90 percent of FIRST participants go on to college, and those who do are three times more likely to study engineering than the background student population.

And, he said, teachers who stay after school to run FIRST teams should get an extra stipend as sports coaches do.

“Every sports coach out there gets a stipend — why don’t we give a stipend to our (FIRST) teachers?” he asked.

And, he said, FIRST not only teaches technology, it also teaches skills like team-building, communication, public speaking, fundraising, public relations and more.

More than $16 million in college scholarships are available exclusively for FIRST students in 2013.

Detroit Public Television streamed the event live, and will air a one-hour special on the FIRST championships Saturday, May 4 at 8 a.m., with a rebroadcast during prime time coming later in May.

More about the championships at firstinmichigan.org.

Headed for the national championships based on their performances at the state event, and at earlier events, are the following teams:

* Team 469, Las Guerrillas, International Academy, Bloomfield Hills
* Team 2054, Tech Vikes, Hopkins High School
* Team 3539, Byting Bulldogs, Romeo Engineering & Technology Center
* Team 67, Heroes Of Tomorrow, Huron Valley Schools
* Team 1718, The Fighting Pi, Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences, Armada
* Team 33, the Killer Bees, Notre Dame Preparatory School, Auburn Hills
* Team 1918, NC Gears, Newaygo County RESA, Fremont
* Team 862, Lightning Robotics, Plymouth-Canton Schools
* Team 245, Adambots, Rochester Adams and Stoney Creek High Schools
* Team 2145, Hazmats, Lake Fenton High School
* Team 2474, Excel, Niles
* Team 3414, Hackbots, Farmington Public Schools
* Team 2959, Robotarians, Coloma High School, Watervliet High School, Lake Michigan Catholic High School, Grace Christian High School, Michigan Lutheran High School, Eau Claire High School
* Team 217, the Thunder Chickens, Utica Community Schools
* Team 27, Team Rush, Clarkston High School
* Team 3656, the Dreadbots, Dexter High School
* Team 2000, Team Rock, Dorr
* Team 3641, The Flying Toasters, South Lyon Schools
* Team 2851, Crevolution, Utica Community Schools
* Team 2612, Waterford Mott Destroyers, Waterford Mott High School
* Team 2137, Torc, Oxford Community Schools
* Team 70, More Martians, Goodrich High School
* Team 68, Truck Town Thunder, Holly High School and Brandon High School
* Team 2619, The Charge, Midland Public Schools
* Team 314, The Megatron Oracles, Flint Carman-Ainsworth High School
* Team 1684, Chimeras, Lapeer High Schools

For a list of all awards won at Saturday’s event, visit this link.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national program that begins in first grade and continues through high school, using robotics construction and competition to build excitement about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More at www.usfirst.org or www.firstinmichigan.org.

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.


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