Kettering University hosts first-ever collegiate FIRST Robotics competition Jan. 20

Team cage in the Kettering University FIRST Community Center

For the first time ever, a FIRST Robotics collegiate competition is taking place to allow college students to not only mentor younger teams, but also compete. Kettering University will host the competition for six collegiate teams from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 20 in its FIRST Robotics Community Center.

FIRST Robotics, which focuses on high school teams across the country designing, building, and programming a robot in roughly six weeks, had its game release and kickoff events nationwide on Saturday, January 5, announcing the Destination Deep Space theme and playing field. Traditionally after kickoff, college students and FIRST mentors will build this year’s robot in three days for an extra challenge, but also to give FIRST teams ideas about what can be done with their robot. But until this year, they’ve never had the opportunity to compete with them. 

Kettering FIRST Robotics Community Center

“The whole purpose was to build this robot and show the teams what they did in a very short time to help them build their own robot. What’s so cool about this is FIRST has never have a collegiate competition. This is the first opportunity to have universities competing against each other in FIRST Robotics,” said Bob Nichols, Director of Kettering’s FIRST Robotics Community Center. “What’s even more important to the public that's going to watch this, this is the first competition with this new game. High school students are going to be very interested in how this goes.”

This year’s pilot event is not open to the public. However, high school teams who want to see how this year’s game could work or how the field runs can watch the collegiate competition through a livestream. Practice rounds start at 10 a.m., and competitions start at 10:30 a.m.

Destination Deep Space challenges FIRST Robotics teams to collect samples on Planet Primus. Two competing alliances will combat unpredictable terrain and weather patterns, making remote robot operation essential to their mission on the planet. Kettering will host back-to-back FIRST district competitions February 28 through March 1, and March 7 through March 9.

A Kettering University team is competing in the collegiate competition. About 18 students came together on January 5 to work on the robot, said Devin Spaulding ‘22, FIRST Alumni Association at Kettering president.

“It was a lot of hard work. But it was really fun and cool to see how fast we could make progress with university students. It was very impressive to see how well we worked together and how well things came together,” said Spaulding, a Mechanical Engineering major. “This competition will be very beneficial for high school teams to see actual matches play out and see what each team will be able to accomplish in the span of a match. It's hard to anticipate what matches will be like so I think it will give teams a lot of insight about different strategies and ways to play the game.”

Spaulding was part of FIRST Robotics for four years at Clarkston High School. Now as a Kettering student, he takes the opportunity to help other high school teams.

The competition on January 20 will give those teams a look at in-depth strategy on how to handle the game pieces.

“FIRST aligns with everything Kettering values, and Kettering has been doing a lot of new things when it comes to FIRST teams. It makes a lot of sense for Kettering to be hosting the first collegiate game,” Spaulding said. “With the livestream you get to see how the game is played a whole four weeks before teams are going to be playing matches at all. It’s a great sneak peek. It’s going to be cool to watch.”

Find more information about the livestream at