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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe, TED Director Roger Curtis and FIRST Robotics Michigan President Gail Alpert to head steering committee for World Championships

April competition will bring 60,000 students to Detroit, inspire students for STEM careers

Media Contact: Dave Murray
517-243-7530 |

Nov. 21, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe will join Gail Alpert, president of FIRST Robotics in Michigan and Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, to lead the steering committee for the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit.

For three consecutive years starting in April 2018, the FIRST Robotics World Championships will welcome more than 60,000 students annually to Cobo Center and Ford Field in Detroit. The championship will generate as much as $90 million in economic impact during that time and expose tens of thousands of students to the opportunities for good jobs here in Michigan.

"We’re excited to welcome the next generation of talent to Michigan knowing their experience here will provide them with a lifetime of in-demand skills that will set them up for success in STEM fields after graduation,” Poppe said. "Much like our state's economy, Consumers Energy depends on STEM talent to innovate, engineer, anticipate and respond to opportunities now and in the future.”

For Poppe, FIRST Robotics has been an active part of her family’s life.

“My own kids participated in it and my husband is a mentor – so it runs in my family. I’m excited to bring that love and excitement for the program to the many students and parents we welcome to Detroit early next year,” she said.

Ford Field has hosted championships before, including Super Bowl XL in 2006. But that involved just two teams. The FIRST Championship will see nearly 700 teams in four levels of competition spread out across the two sites.

The 74-person steering committee has three main goals: promote FIRST and the Detroit experience, showcase Michigan talent and universities, and grow more FIRST teams. The event will attract teams from around the world, with students from elementary school to high school.

Students participating in FIRST Robotics team up with mentors from local employers to design and build robots for competition. Michigan leads the nation with more than 500 teams.

“Having the world championship in Detroit provides us the perfect opportunity to showcase Michigan as the leader in talent development and career opportunity,” Curtis said. “It also shines the world spotlight on our state as a front-runner in education, and helps us highlight the work we are doing to ensure our students get career-connected with expanded opportunities to explore the vast career options available to them here.”

Two Michigan teams, Stryke Force from the Kalamazoo area and Lightning Robotics from Plymouth-Canton Schools, were part of the three-team winning alliance at the 2017 World Championships in St. Louis.

Students participating in FIRST programs across the state are two times as likely to major in science or engineering and more than 75 percent of FIRST alumni are currently in a STEM field as a student or professional.

Under Alpert’s leadership Michigan has become a national leader in FIRST Robotics, with more than 500 teams.

“FIRST Robotics brings business and education together,” Alpert said. “And at a time when it is critical for us to provide students with lifelong skills and the ability to adapt to changing industry, FIRST is paving the way for our state’s next generation of 21st-century talent through the support of mentor companies like General Motors, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor company and many others who are joining us on our steering committee.” 

The steering committee includes top leaders from across Michigan, including representatives from:

  • Alro Steel
  • Denso
  • Detroit Public Schools Community District
  • Dow Chemical
  • DTE Energy
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Ideal Group
  • General Motors
  • Kettering University
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • Mason Public Schools
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Switch
  • Whirlpool
  • Traverse City Central High School
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Detroit Mercy
  • other Michigan employers and schools