Kettering University will host nine VEX and FIRST robotics and aerial drone competitions through May. The University has hosted two district competitions each year since 2008 and also hosts state and regional championship events for robotics and drones. Kettering began sponsoring high school FIRST robotics teams in 1998.
Each event requires 40 to 100 volunteers, depending on the type of event, such as qualifying, district, state or regional, Bolinger said. University staff members volunteer at the events, but many of the volunteers are students who are robotics alumni.
The 9,600-square-foot FIRST Robotics Community Center, made possible with money raised during the Boldly Forward Campaign, opened in 2014. The center features machining and designing areas, a regulation-size practice field and eight bays for teams to store equipment.
“It gives the opportunity for students from local schools that don’t have a lot of money to get access to a shop and do things,” Lemieux said.
In addition to giving their time, Lemieux and his wife established the Joseph J. ’85 and Jennifer B. Lemieux Scholarship for robotics students in financial need. They established the fund after meeting robotics students who couldn’t afford Kettering after merit scholarships.
“The student, when they added up scholarships, couldn’t afford it, and their family couldn’t get loans and get them over that hump,” Lemieux said.
The University offered its first two scholarships to robotics students in 1999 and has awarded more than $5.5 million since then thanks to gifts like the Lemieux scholarship.
Receiving a robotics scholarship made Kettering more affordable for Deondre Blair (‘25, EE/CE), he said.
Blair participated on Team #7772 The Lucky 7s in Montrose for three years and now mentors the team and volunteers at Kettering events as time permits.
“Robotics gets kids who are interested in STEM the basic skills used in industry,” Blair said.