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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Michigan invests $2.5 million in local schools to grow FIRST Robotics teams, inspire next generation of STEAM professionals

Michigan Education Department awards grants to 462 schools

517-243-7530 | MURRAYD5@MICHIGAN.GOV

Monday, Jan. 11, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan leads the nation in FIRST Robotics teams, and $2.5 million in state grants will help even more students benefit from the experiences of working with professionals and being inspired by seeing real-world applications of STEAM subjects, said Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.

The grants, awarded by the Michigan Department of Education, are part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s continued investment in FIRST Robotics, which has students learning about applications of science, technology, engineering, arts and math through building robots for competitions – with the World Championships headed to Detroit in April.

“FIRST teaches students the skills that prepare them to be successful in the economy of our future,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “Michigan is already first in FIRST, and these grants will go a long way in ensuring that advanced talent development continues.”

FIRST -- For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology -- was formed in 1989 to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

“We want as many students as possible to have access to great programs like FIRST that will build their interest in STEAM careers,” said Curtis, who serves as co-chair of the FIRST Robotics World Championships Detroit Steering Committee.

“Michigan already has more than 500 FIRST high school teams. When you watch a competition and see the excitement and the partnerships with experts working in the fields, you know you are watching the next generations of our state’s engineers and leaders.”

The $2.5 million was divided between public and non-public schools, with nearly $2.3 million awarded to 423 public schools and $157,700 to 39 non-public schools across the state. Programs received grants ranging from $100 to $9,000 to help grow programs. The list of schools awarded the grants is available on the Education Department’s website.

Michigan has invested $12 million helping schools start and strengthen FIRST teams since 2014.

“FIRST Robotics provides a perfect partnership to bring industry and education together to help students understand and learn the skills needed to land one of the many 21st Century jobs here in Michigan,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “Beyond that, FIRST exposes students to multiple career pathways, something critical to creating a Top 10 education system and helps build a robust talent pipeline for the thousands of jobs being created.”

FIRST has been a transformational program for many students and continues to be a leading catalyst for growing student interest in good-paying and high-demand careers currently going unfilled.

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

Michigan also has invested in the Square One Education Network and Skills USA, other programs that encourage students to work with mentors and apply real-world skills in competitions.

“We want to lead the world in talent development,” Curtis said. “This investment by the Michigan Department of Education is just another way Michigan is working toward that goal. The grants are a smart investment in Michigan’s continued economic growth.”

Curtis co-chairs the World Championships Detroit Steering Committee with Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe and Gail Alpert, president of FIRST Robotics in Michigan.

The World Championships, planned for April 25 through 28, are expected to include nearly 60,000 students and 700 teams to Ford Field and Cobo Center with four levels of competition. Last year, two Michigan teams were part of the winning alliance at the World Championships in St. Louis.