2009 FIRST championships

Apr 24, 2009

Kettering University named 13 more FIRST Scholars during this year's national championship of FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST now has one million participants worldwide.

Dean Kamen ’01 shared an out-of-this-world announcement with the thousands attending the 2009 national championship games of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in Atlanta this year.  

Kamen, who founded FIRST almost 20 years ago, reported that “maneuverability” ideas from FIRST robotics teams have been incorporated into the new design of the moon rover that NASA will send into space next year.  “FIRST is literally going to the moon,” Kamen reported.  “This sport of the mind that we’ve been developing for almost 20 years shows students how math will help them and that their accomplishments can resonant worldwide and beyond,” he added.

FIRST participants at the national games numbered 20,000 in 2009, even with a downturn in the global economy.  Spectators, students, mentors, volunteers, sponsors and FIRST supporters gathered April 16-18 inAtlanta’s Olympic Park area to celebrate science and technology in three levels of championship competitions.

The 2009 FIRST Championship featured three simultaneous contests:

  • FIRST Robotics Competition Championship;
  • FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship; and
  • FIRST LEGO League World Festival.

Just how big is FIRST nationals?

  • 10,565 students from 28 countries;
  • Almost $10 million in scholarships;
  • 533 robots built by high school students;
  • 5,154 registered mentors/coaches including manyKetteringalumni;
  • 700 event volunteers;
  • Thousands of family members, teachers, VIP guests, sponsors and fans;
  • Six playing fields in the Georgia Dome; and
  • 250,000 square feet in theGeorgiaWorldCongressCenterfor scholarship tables, vendors and “pit” areas for teams.

FIRST Robotics Competition Championship:

  • 349 high school robotics teams;
  • 8,725 high school students;
  • Six countries represented:Brazil,Canada,Israel,Mexico,Philippinesand theUnited States;
  • This year’s game: LUNACY, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon walk in 1969;
  • Robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST; and
  • 18th year of competition for students in grades 9-12.

FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship:

  • 100 teams;
  • 1,000 high school students;
  • Five countries:Canada,Mexico,Netherlands,Norwayand theUnited States;
  • This year’s game: FACE OFF;
  • Robots are built using a modular robotics platform; and
  • Tech Challenge is for high school aged students.

FIRST LEGO League World Festival

  • 84 teams;
  • 840 middle school students;
  • Twenty-seven countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Haiti, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States;
  • This year’s game: Climate Connections;
  • Robots are built using LEGO MINDSTORMS technologies; and
  • 10th year of competition for students 9-14 years of age.

FIRST Robotics Competition Championship:

Teams from California, Illinoisand Michiganemerged victorious at the FIRST Robotics Championship at the Georgia Dome.  Michigan again had the most high school robotics teams competing (43) followed byCalifornia (33). “Our mission is about more than building robots; we are working to inspire and change a culture," Kamen said. "InAtlanta, we had the opportunity to witness this culture shift in action. We watched as the innovators of tomorrow showed us they could step up to the challenge and solve complex technological problems. And that's good news for us, because we need more innovative thinkers to help solve a number of increasingly complex problems in the world. I am confident there is a bright future ahead - I caught a glimpse of it at the FIRST Championship,” Kamen added.


FIRST SCHOLARS: Kettering named 13 more FIRST Scholars during this year’s national games, each student receiving a total of $22,500 for their college education.  Kettering’s 13 scholarships were part of the 630 available to FIRST participants this year for almost $10 million.  Kettering’s 2009-10 FIRST Scholars class is:

  • Eric Barch of Oxford; Team Rush (Team 27);
  • Caitlin Bunt of Rockford, Ill.; IMSA Robotics, (Team 2022);
  • Justin Cetnar of St. Clair Shores; Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center (Team 818);
  • Katherine Dale of Novi; Frog Force (Team 503);
  • Andrew Dickenson of Flint Southwestern High School; Knight Riders (Team 397);
  • Ashley Eidsmore of Aberdeen High School ,Aberdeen, Maryland; The Brigade (Team 1980);
  • Gage Hainer of Grand Blanc High School; The Enginerds (Team 2337);
  • David Pierzynski of Troy High School; The Hammerheads (Team 226);
  • Eric Salem of Grand Blanc High School; The Enginerds (Team 2337);
  • Rachel St. Laurent of  The Commonwealth Governor’s School of Fredericksburg, Va.; Kilroy (Team 339);
  • Donald Tinsley of Stoney Creek High School inR ochester; Kettering’s Metal Muscle team (Team 1506);
  • Ryan Todd of Plymouth High School; Lightning Robotics (Team 862); and
  • Quinn Wagner, home schooled inGreensboro, N.C. with dual enrollment at Guilford Technical Community College; (junior mentor to Team 2655).


FIRST nationals have a chaotic personality similar to the NCAA’s March Madness, said Bob Nichols, Kettering’s director of external affairs and the coordinator of Kettering’s FIRST efforts.  He led the Kettering volunteer team that stomped around the giant World Congress building and Georgia Dome for the three-day event.  Among the volunteers who joined Nichols this year were Professor Henry and Joan Kowalski (Mechanical Engineering), Stephanie Jones (Minority Student Initiatives), Bonnie McArthur (University Advancement), Pat Mroczek (University Communications), and four superstar student ambassadors: Mindy Taylor and Andrew Schreiber, both of Clarkston, Theresa Thompson of Toledo and Dan Stovall of Rochester.  The recruiters collected more than 600 addresses forKettering’s admissions’ mailing list.


FIRST nationals began this year with a mass entry of thousands of FIRST participants into Atlanta, many arriving on April 15 from around the world.  Zack Smith, a sophomore at BeecherHigh School in Flint, was one of them.  He was excited to attend his first national competition, but unfortunately he faced a huge challenge just getting there.  “This is my first airplane ride, and I’m petrified of heights,” the quiet teen said while sitting on an Air Tran plane at Flint’s BishopAirport.  “I want to meet new people and see what kind of robots the other teams came up with, so I have to do this,” he said, trembling as the plane began its 1 ½-hour flight to Atlanta.  “I really enjoyed helping to build the Metal Muscle robot and also enjoyed being around my team mates on Metal Muscle.”

One of Zack’s team mates, Don Tinsley of Rochester, sat next to him on the flight to Atlantaand did his best to calm Zack’s fraying nerves as the plane entered the clouds.  Don has spent four years in FIRST Robotics and was en route to his third national championship games in Atlanta.  “I can’t really sum up what I’ve learned in FIRST because it’s so much.  I know what I can tell you …” he continued, “Doc K (Professor Henry Kowalski of Kettering’s Mechanical Engineering department) is a fun guy to be around.  I’m really looking forward to coming to Kettering this summer to start my studies in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering,” he added.  Don is a senior at Stoney CreekHigh School in Rochester and during the 2009 games was named one of 13 Kettering FIRST Scholars.     


Flint Pride: Flint had a lot to be proud of at the 2009 national games when local resident Sally Male of the Delphi Corp. was selected as one of four field supervisors for the championship contests.  Sally was responsible for all activities at the Galileo playing field, one of only four fields for the robotic championships.  A field supervisor is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the playing field, a 54 foot by 27 foot low-friction field, featuring advanced technology, six competing robots at a time, plus human drivers and players.  Locally, Sally is the coach/mentor for Flint’s Carman-AinsworthHigh School “BigMo” (Team 314) and she is a member of the annual planning committee for the Kettering Kickoff.  “FIRST likes what we’re doing here in Michigan,” Sally said.  “I was honored they asked me to be a field supervisor.”   


One patent and two trademarks for FIRST: Dean Kamen told the 25,000 people at opening ceremonies Friday morning that it is important to protect the intellectual property generated within FIRST.  He announced that FIRST has been granted one patent and two trademarks by the federal government.  The patent was issued for FIRST’s business method, plus FIRST now has trademarks on the original phrases “Gracious Professionalism” and “Co-opertition” (co-operation and competition).


Girl Scouts and 4-H: FIRST celebrated the first anniversary of Girl Scouts being part of the robotics competition.  Six all-girl Girl Scout teams competed in Atlanta during the national games and 1,200 technology patches were earned by girls around the country in the past year.  Also four 4-H Club teams competed for the first time at nationals, opening the door to yet another national organization making the FIRST ideal available to its membership.


Michigan was the home of four of the six top winners at the 2009 games.  The national title was won by an alliance of Team 67, HOT, of Huron Valley Schools in Milford, Team 111,Wild Stangs of Rolling Meadows High School and WheelingHigh School in Schaumburg, Ill., and Team 971, Spartan Robotics of Mountain View High School in Mountain View, Calif.  Second place honors went to three Michigan teams, two of which were featured at the Kettering FIRST regional in March.  The national runners-up were from Berkley, Pontiac and Utica.  (The Utica team, the Thunderchickens, and the PontiacNorthernHigh School team, the Huskie Brigade, started their national bid here in Flint.) 


Worldwide, FIRST now estimates it has one million participants.


Kettering’s next FIRST event is Saturday, Sept. 19, for the 10th Annual Kettering Kickoff.  And remember, being a nerd is cool.  Proof at: www.usfirst.org.  Because if you’re not FIRST, you’re last!

Written by Patricia Mroczek
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