Kettering sends team to national robotics contest

Apr 10, 2002

Some of America's finest companies and technology universities will meet at the 2002 FIRST National Championships in Orlando, Fla., later this month.

What does Kettering University have in common with:

  • Boeing
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Compaq
  • Delphi Corp.
  • EDS
  • General Motors
  • Ford Motor Co.
  • General Electric
  • Honeywell
  • Johnson Controls
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Lear Corp.
  • LEGO Systems
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Motorola
  • NASA
  • Pratt Whitney Space Propulsion
  • Raytheon
  • Xerox, and
  • Walt Disney World

Some of America's finest companies and technology universities will meet at the 2002 FIRST National Championships in Orlando, Fla., later this month.

The Auto City Bandits -- Kettering's high school robotics team -- is on its way back to DisneyWorld after finishing 19th out of 47 teams during the Motorola Midwest Regionals in Evanston, Ill.

The team will travel to Epcot Center and the FIRST National Robotics Championship set for April 25-27. FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - is an alliance of business, education, government and volunteers who come together to inspire tomorrow's engineers.

Kettering's team is made up of a group of high school students from the Genesee Area Skill Center (GASC) in Flint. The team is coached by GASC's John Root. The high school students take classes at GASC and represent:

  • Davison High School
  • Flint Central High School
  • Flint's Southwestern Academy
  • Lake Fenton High School
  • Linden High School
  • Powers Catholic High School, and
  • Swartz Creek High School.

Bob Nichols, vice president for Enrollment Management at Kettering, said Kettering is proud of its FIRST involvement. "We need to encourage high school students to take a serious look at math and science. The local, regional and national contests of FIRST are a fun and effective way for students and engineers from our business partners to meet each other," Nichols said. "And we actively recruit from this pool of very talented students."

The stage is set for Kettering to once again gain national recognition for its scholarship support for FIRST. Kettering will award six FIRST scholarships ($5,000 a year for four years = $20,000 per student) during the colorful national scholarship ceremony at Epcot Center Saturday, April 27. More than 14,000 people attended the ceremony last year. 


"Kettering is always looking for the best students," Nichols explained. "We do that with our commitment to FIRST. We're especially proud that Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, is one of Kettering's newest alumni," Nichols said. Kamen received an honorary degree at Kettering in December.

"It's important that Kettering stand side-by-side with the companies that support our professional co-op programs and those we'd like to be doing more business with," Nichols added.

This year's game features two teams paired in an alliance, competing on a playing field that is separated into five zones. Alliances compete in four divisions:

  • Archimedes Division
  • Curie Division
  • Galileo Division, and
  • Newton Division.

Robots seek and secure up to 40 soccer balls on the playing field, maneuvering with three moveable goals. An alliance can score points with robot placement, moving goals and securing balls in a timed contest.

Here's a sample of the Mid-Michigan teams going to nationals:
Team 49:NASA GRC/Dow Chemical & Buena Vista High School
Team 70: Kettering-GASC Auto City Bandits
Team 314: GM Flint Truck Assembly/UAW Local 598 & Carman-Ainsworth High School of Flint
Team 322: General Motors - Flint/University of Michigan-Flint & Flint Community Schools
Team 494: Burkland Textron & Goodrich High School
Team 894: Powers Catholic High School in Flint
Team 902:Delphi Automotive Systems and Saginaw Heritage HS 



WJR radio will feature Kettering Saturday, April 27, when radio host Paul W. Smith broadcasts from Epcot Center from 9 to 11 a.m. Smith will interview Nichols during the two-hour special broadcast, which is expected to include J.T. Battenberg III '66, chairman of the board, CEO and president of Delphi Corp and a member of Kettering's Board of Trustees, and FIRST founder Dean Kamen '01.


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.

WHO TO CONTACT 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