FIRST Nationals 2010

Apr 23, 2010

Twenty years and a million participants later, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is changing America and Kettering is helping!

Dean Kamen ’01 had a single-minded goal when he founded For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) in 1989.  Kamen has repeated the story over and over – he simply wants to change American culture.

“We have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers,” Kamen said during the 2010 FIRST National games in Atlanta April 15-17. “This is increasingly important as we try to build momentum in the U.S. to fuel a robust talent pipeline of innovative 21st century STEM professionals. For the thousands of young problem-solvers who participated in the FIRST Championship, we caught a glimpse of the great things that are in store when these students tackle greater challenges in years ahead.”

FIRST is a maturing organization, Kamen told large crowds during the three-day event.  FIRST co-founder Woodie Flowers has now retired from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “although we keep him plenty busy with FIRST,” he said.  “And yes, we are working on a succession plan, if something were to happen to one of us,” Kamen explained.

Featured speakers at this year’s national games included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a special video appearance by Bill Gates.

Kettering and FIRST …
Kettering University has been part of FIRST for 12 years.  It began when Bob Nichols, director of External Affairs, connected the University to this burgeoning national effort that is designed to show high school youth the fun and career paths available in engineering, technology and the sciences. 

Kettering was among the first three universities in the United States to offer FIRST scholarships and has awarded more than $2 million in FIRST scholarships in the past decade.  In 2010, Kettering’s 14 new FIRST Scholars are all incoming freshmen who each will receive $22,500 for use over 4 ½ years of study, for a total commitment of $315,000 in FIRST scholarships this year.

“Kettering has become a national leader in the FIRST scholarship program and in attracting FIRST graduates to our university,” Nichols said.  “Our efforts get us increasing public recognition within the worldwide FIRST organization.”

 This year’s FIRST Scholars are:

  • Ryan Brancheau, Team 2337, Enginerds, Grand Blanc;
  • Joey Carlini, Team 2832; Livonia Warriors, Livonia;
  • Joel Carne, Team 68; Truck Town Thunder, Holly;
  • Harrison Ford, Team 314, Big Mo, Flint;
  • Christopher Greene, Team 245; Adambots, Rochester;
  • Christopher Hideg, Team 910, Foley Freeze, Madison Heights;
  • Kyle Irk, Team 2145; Hazmat’s, Lake Fenton;
  • Aaron Jones, Team 1188, Oaktown Crewz, Royal Oak;
  • Rick Pease, Team 2337, Enginerds, Grand Blanc;
  • Kelly Powell, Team 79, Team Krunch, Palm Harbor, Fla.;
  • Hayley Schuller, Team 217, Thunder Chickens, Sterling Heights;
  • Akeram Suleiman, Team 904, D 3, Grand Rapids;
  • Robyn Thurston, Team 2619, The Charge, Midland;
  • Mark Wahnish, Team 79, Team Krunch, Palm Harbor, Fla.

Nichols said today’s FIRST participants are exactly what Kettering is looking for.  “FIRST students demonstrate outstanding qualities that Kettering looks for in its students and our corporate partners desperately need in today’s marketplace.  These high school students practice problem solving, team work, leadership and gracious professionalism – all characteristics that develop so beautifully through their FIRST experiences.”

Nichols noted that once again Kettering received positive, national exposure during this year’s national championship games.  FIRST President Paul Gudonis told the large audience at opening ceremonies that enrollment of FIRST participants at American universities is now measured in double digits.  Gudonis estimated that FIRST grads now represent 10 percent of MIT’s entering classes and 15 percent at Kettering.

Kettering also had positive national exposure during the closing VIP banquet this year, too.  Only two FIRST graduates were chosen to speak to the crowd of about 500 corporate, university and FIRST VIPs convened at the Georgia Aquarium for dinner.  One was Kettering’s Gina Sweet ’07, who explained how FIRST gave her the courage to pursue a career in science and engineering, while providing a lot of fun on her Milford, Michigan, FIRST team along the way.  A photo of Gina at a Kettering commencement ceremony was featured in a photo collage during her comments to the VIP group.

The 2010 FIRST National Championships …
Twenty thousand FIRST supporters – mentors, students, volunteers, sponsors and fans – gathered at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center.  In all, more than 500 teams from 30 countries competed in the three levels of FIRST:

  • FIRST Robotics Championship (FRC®, grades 9 to 12, ages 14-18);
  • FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC®, grades 9 to 12, 14 to 18-year-olds)
  • FIRST LEGO League (FLL®, grades 4 to 8, 9 to 14-year-olds in the U.S and Canada; 9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S and Canada);
  • 10,470 students from 30 countries;
  • 528 robots;
  • 5,089 mentors/coaches/adult supporters;
  • 700 event volunteers;
  • Thousands of family members, teachers, VIP guests, sponsors, fans and local spectators:
  • Six playing fields in the Georgia Dome:
  • 250,000 square feet in the Georgia World Congress Center for scholarship tables, vendors and “pit” areas for teams;
  • Almost $12 million in scholarships from universities including Kettering, MIT, Purdue,  Embry-Riddle, Carnegie Mellon, WPI and more.

FIRST Robotics Championship (FRC)
The FRC championship culminated in a frenzied final round of robotic matches.  More than 340 teams competed in “Breakaway™,” a soccer-like game to climb obstacles and score goals against their opponents. The winning alliance was: Team 294, Beach Cities Robotics of Redondo Beach, Calif.; Team 67, The HOT Team from Milford, Mich.; and Team 177, Bobcat Robotics of South Windsor, Conn.  The Milford team – HOT (Heroes of Tomorrow) – began their march to a national title by winning Kettering’s FIRST District games, from March 5-6 in Recreation Center.

This year’s national games at Atlanta included:

  • 344 teams;
  • 8,600 high school students;
  • teams from six countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico and U.S.;
  • Robots built in six weeks by high school students and their coaches/mentors from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST and weighing up to 120 pounds.
  • 19th year of competition for students in grades 9-12.
  • The 2011 national games will be April 27-30 in the Edward Jones Dome at the America’s Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship (FTC)

  • 100 teams;
  • 1,000 high school students;
  • Four countries: Canada, Mexico, Netherlands and U.S.;
  • Robots are built using a modular robotics platform.

FIRST Lego League World Festival (FLL)

  • 84 teams;
  • 840 middle school students;
  • 30 countries, including U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico and more;
  • Robots are built using LEGO Mindstorms technologies.

The fun of FIRST … Team names represent the humor and camaraderie existing within the thousands who compete at FIRST events around the world each year.  Some name samples this year include the “Thunder Down Under” from Australia; “Robatos Locos” from Texas; and not to forget the Blue Cheese Heads, the Cheesy Poofs and the Mighty Monkey Wrenches from around the U.S.  Perhaps in the current economy – where teams are pinching every penny in their budget to participate in national games – a team from Florida gets the name award for the year: “Smoke and Mirrors” from Lakeland.

For more on FIRST: For a complete listing of awards, match results and scholarship winners, visit FIRST online at and click on the “FIRST Championship” headline. 

Photos/Multimedia Gallery available at:

Written by Patricia Mroczek