FIRST moves to Texas

Mar 28, 2003

Kettering University, along with some of the country's finest companies, has geared up for another national championship of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

What started as a fun way for a few hundred high school students to explore engineering and science has grown to 20,000 participants strong.

Kettering University, along with some of the country's finest companies, has geared up for another national championship of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). This year's event is April 10-12 in Houston, Texas.

"FIRST is about student discovery, rewarding achievement and public-private partnerships that include students, high schools,universities and companies," said Bob Nichols, Kettering's vice president for Enrollment Management. "The experiment that started a decade ago is a phenomenal success. We have created a pipeline for the country's top high school students to meet professionals in science, math, engineering and technology. The FIRST "nationals" provide a captive audience of top quality students to recruit from, " Nichols added.

The founder of FIRST is inventor Dean Kamen, who received an honorary degree from Kettering and rode his famous Segway transporter through commencement in December 2001.

Nichols said Kamen's initial hope of creating excitement about opportunities for careers in engineering and science similiar to basketball or football has turned into a multi-million dollar educational bonanza. "On the national level, FIRST scholarships now top $1.8 million annually. Kettering will award six scholarships during the Saturday morning ceremony at FIRST, valued at $120,000 ($5,000 a year for four years = $20,000 per student)."

"It's a bonanza for Kettering, too," Nichols added. "We're expecting at least 15,000 students, engineers and business people (including many alumni), plus parents at the April 12 scholarship event. It's incredible national and international exposure for our University."

Plus, Kettering and GM have teamed up to host a broadcast from WJR Radio (760 AM) at FIRST on Saturday, April 12, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Car Guy Steve Stewart will interview Nichols and student representatives from the FIRST competition site.

Nichols noted that one of the important business angle's of FIRST is the opportunity to associate with business giants. Some of this year's corporate partners and team sponsors include:

  • Boston Scientific,
  • DaimlerChrysler Corp. Fund,
  • Delphi Corp.,
  • Denso Corp.,
  • FedEx,
  • General Motors,
  • Johnson & Johnson,
  • Microsoft,
  • Motorola,
  • NASA,
  • Texas Instruments,
  • TYCO, and
  • XEROX Corp.

Local teams going to national championships in Houston include:

  • Team 49 - Knights from Buena Vista High School, Saginaw, is a 'Top Dog' at Kettering's annual Kettering Kickoff in September. The Knights won the Pittsburgh Regional March 15 with FIRE from Flint Community Schools. The team was also the winner of the Leadership in Design Control Award and the winner of the Pittsburgh Regional Chairman's Award.
  • Team 322 - FIRE from Flint Community Schools, which qualified by winning the Pittsburgh Regional March 15. The team's alliance partner was Buena Vista High School, Saginaw. FIRE almost won the Great Lakes Regional, too, ending up with the runner-up trophy.
  • Team 397 - Flint Southwestern Academy and Delphi Corp.
  • Team 471 - Fenton High School - Lear Corp. CyberTigers.
  • Team 494 - Goodrich High School Martians, won the Motorola Quality Award at the Buckeye Regional and the Judges Award at the Great Lakes Regional. The team built a robot dynamometer, that they take to competitions for all teams to use to troubleshoot problems they are having with their robots.

Kettering's Team #70, the Auto City Bandits, won't be traveling to nationals this year.

FOR MORE ON FIRST NATIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS: scroll down to see the growing list of universities offering FIRST scholarships)

THIS YEAR'S GAME Want to see it:


Founded in 1989, FIRST is a nationwide high-tech sporting event that pits robots designed and built by teams of students, teachers and corporate engineers in head-to-head competitions. Teams receive an identical kit that includes a microprocessor, radio-frequency transmitters and receivers, electrical components, motors, batteries and other hardware. Immediately following an annual opening ceremony each January, high school students gather with their corporate or university sponsors to begin the six-week process of designing, building and testing their robot in preparation for the regional and national competitions.

FIRST Robotics Background Videos:
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(Low resolution)


For more information on the national FIRST effort, visit
FIRST offices: 200 Bedford Street, Manchester, N.H. 03101; 800-871-8326; Fax: 603-666-3907

Written by Pat Mroczek
(810) 762-9533