Rookie Regional results

Mar 12, 2008

FIRST, a national organization that introduces students to the career possibilities in science and engineering, has done more than that in its 15 years of effort. This (mostly volunteer) group is changing lives.

FIRST -- For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – began 15 years ago with the concept you get what you celebrate.  Kettering University actively joined the spirited national effort about 10 years ago as one of the first universities in the country to provide FIRST scholarships.

If the Michigan Pilot FIRST Rookie Regional, which Kettering hosted March 7-8 inFlint, is any example – FIRST is #1 in showing youth that the fields of science and engineering are fun!

Twenty-three “rookie” teams from four states and Ontario competed during two-and-a-half days of FIRST contests inKettering’s Recreation Center.  “The event was phenomenally successful – incredibly successful,” said Bob Nichols, Kettering’s director of External Affairs, who coordinated the rookie competition at the Flint site.  “The concept of having all rookie teams for the first time in a national pilot is a model that will be duplicated throughout the country.  I’m so pleased that Kettering was chosen as the test site and that everything turned out so well.   

“FIRST provides the Olympics of Recruitment for future engineers and scientists,” Nichols continued.  “It is presented in a fun and competitive atmosphere.  It is organized by some of the most dedicated and talented volunteers I have ever associated with.  They made it fun for me and everyone.  After months of planning, our volunteers made this place rock!” he added.  

Several national and state representatives of the FIRST organization attended the Rookie Regional.  Paul Gudonis of Manchester, N.H., president of FIRST, was among them.  “FIRST, to me, gives young people an opportunity to excel and expand their horizons,” he said. Gudonis grew up in Chicago, where his father, who was an immigrant, continually told him that education was his ticket to a successful life.  “So promoting education and inspiring young people is very dear to me,” he continued.

Gudonis joined FIRST three years ago, after a 25-year career in the technology industry.  “I helped launch the first cell phone network in the United States while I was at Ameritech and I continued my career in software and Internet services companies,” he said.  “I have been personally involved in seeing how technology can improve our lives.  FIRST gives me a terrific opportunity to help our next generation be excited about using their brains in both their careers and their lives," he added.  

For example, he said, a high school in Warren,Ohio, only has a 50 percent graduation rate, but the FIRST robotics team members have a 98 percent graduation rate.  “And 100 percent of the FIRST students go to college. It is one way that FIRST is changing lives around the country," he explained. 

With 2,000 corporate sponsors these days, the national FIRST organization is also very interested in matching young talent and industry, too.  “Companies, and even elected officials, are beginning to see a huge shortage of talent in this country,” Gudonis said. He also recently heard the governor of Massachusetts describe the problem of having 90,000 open jobs in his state and 120,000 people who are looking for work but don’t have the skills required to fill them.

“AutoDesk has 1,000 open jobs on the West Coast.  Qualcomm has 1,000 open jobs.  Executives are telling me they receive 5,000 resumes and can only interview 18 qualified candidates,” he said.

Gudonis said that Michigan is a leader in doing something to fix that problem.  “Michiganis already one of the leading states with FIRST teams in its high schools.  Twenty-five percent of Michigan high schools now have FIRST teams in them.  We’re encouraging a race among the governors to see which state can hit 100 percent first.  We want to make FIRST attractive to all types of students and hope that FIRST robotics is the fasting-growing high school sport in the country,” he said.

Ryan Masica of Grand Blanc agrees with that.  Masica, who is a senior at Grand Blanc High School, is a proud member of the rookie team, the Enginerds, Team #2337.  He will study Electrical Engineering at Kettering, starting in July.  “I’m in three sports at Grand Blanc: football, basketball and robotics,” he said.  “I like robotics the best,” he added.  Masica’s team ended up in second place at the Rookie Regional.

Winning the Rookie Regional was a three-team alliance of:
Team #2513, TERTOLA of Minneapolis,
Team #2609, Crusader, Guelph, Ontario, and
Team #2619, The Charge, Midland, Mich.

Receiving Finalist Awards for second place were:
Team #2337, the Enginerds, Grand Blanc, Mich.,
Team #2604, Metal and Soul, Capac, Mich., and
Team #2627, Grace Tech Royals, Ann Arbor.

Top Score Award went to:
Team #2381, the Ark, Chicago, Ill.,
Team #2513, TERTOLA of Minneapolis, and
Team #2668, North Montco Vortex, of Lansdale, Penn. 

Other awards included:
#1 Seed: Team #2604, Metal and Soul, Capac, Mich.,
Quality Award: Team #2609, Crusader, Guelph, Ontario,
Imagery Award: Team #2604, Metal and Soul, Capac, Mich.,
Team Spirit Award: Team #2591, Red Tails, Detroit,
Robot Design Excellence Award, Team #2337, Enginerds, Grand Blanc, Mich.,
Creativity Award: Team #2668, North Montco Vortex, Lansdale, Penn.,
Gracious Professional Award: Team #2645, Power Surge, Muskegon, Mich.,
Delphi Technology Award: Team #2608, MIGHT, Farmington Hills, Mich., and
Safety Award: Team #2603, Team Hornet, Medina, Ohio.

Kettering’s next FIRST event is September 2008, when the Ninth Annual Kettering Kickoff robotics competition rolls into the Recreation Center.  

Written by Pat Mroczek