Michigan invests $2.5 million in local schools to grow robotics teams

Hopes to inspire next-generation STEAM professionals

By Dane Sager Kelly - Web Producer

DETROIT - State grants totaling $2.5 million will be used to help students experience working with professionals and see real-world application of STEAM subjects.

The grants have been awarded by the Michigan Department of Education as a part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s investment in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics, which has students learning about applications of science, technology, engineering, arts and math through building robots for competitions. 

“FIRST teaches students the skills that prepare them to be successful in the economy of our future,” Snyder said. “Michigan is already first in FIRST, and these grants will go a long way in ensuring that advanced talent development continues.”

FIRST was formed in 1989 to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation, and to foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development director Roger Curtis also serves as co-chair of the FIRST Robotics World Championships Detroit Steering Committee.

“We want as many students as possible to have access to great programs like FIRST that will build their interest in STEAM careers,” Curtis said. “Michigan already has more than 500 FIRST high school teams. When you watch a competition and see the excitement and the partnerships with experts working in the fields, you know you are watching the next generations of our state’s engineers and leaders.”

The $2.5 million was divided between public and non-public schools, with nearly $2.3 million awarded to 423 public schools and $157,700 to 39 non-public schools. Programs received grants ranging from $100 to $9,000 to help grow programs. 

“FIRST Robotics provides a perfect partnership to bring industry and education together to help students understand and learn the skills needed to land one of the many 21st century jobs here in Michigan,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “Beyond that, FIRST exposes students to multiple career pathways, something critical to creating a top 10 education system and helps build a robust talent pipeline for the thousands of jobs being created.”

Students participating in FIRST programs across the state are two times as likely to major in science or engineering in college, and more than 75 percent of FIRST alumni are currently in a STEM field as a student or professional.

Michigan has invested $12 million into local FIRST teams since 2014. The World Championships, planned for April 25-28, are expected to include nearly 60,000 students and 700 teams at Ford Field and Cobo Center with four levels of competition. Last year, two Michigan teams were part of the winning alliance at the World Championships in St. Louis.

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