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$3 Million in Grants Available to Help Schools Start, Expand Robotics Programs in Michigan

August 22, 2018

LANSING – More Michigan students will have an opportunity to gain the real-world experience in robotics through $3 million in state grants available for public schools and $300,000 for non-public schools, the Michigan Department of Education and the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan announced today.

The grants, to be awarded by the Michigan Department of Education, are part of the state’s continued investment in robotics programs, which have students learning about applications of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) through building robots for competitions – with the FIRST Robotics World Championships returning to Detroit next April.

Local school districts also may use the grant funds to participate in the VEX Robotics program and its Robotics Education and Competition (REC). Non-public schools may use their funds to participate in the Science Olympiad, as well.

“Robotics programs are a true success story in action and will help Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years,” Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles said. “It partners business and education to help students understand many of the 21st Century skills needed in the careers of today and the future. It also is an opportunity for students to try their hand at many careers ranging from business and information technology to manufacturing and other professional trades careers.”

Michigan leads the nation in FIRST Robotics teams, bringing home the World Championship title for two years running.

“As we work to implement the Marshall Plan for Talent to better connect Michiganders with the high-demand, high-wage careers available in the Comeback State, expanding successful programs like FIRST Robotics in Michigan’s schools will be an essential tool to help students explore these great careers in STEAM fields,” Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan Director Roger Curtis said.

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.

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.

“If Michigan is to lead the world in the race for the most and best talent for business, programs like FIRST Robotics are essential to our success.” Curtis added. “This investment by the Michigan Department of Education shows we – together as a state – are committed to making sure our students are adequately prepared for the careers of today and the future. This is a smart investment that will keep Michigan moving forward.”

This $3 million in grants adds to the more than $12 million Michigan has invested in FIRST teams since 2014.

Research shows that 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 STEAM field as a student or professional.

Robotics programs empower students to demonstrate their competency in learning in a variety of ways. They have opportunities to solve problems that leverages the power of technology by developing and testing solutions in creative and imaginative ways. They are able to construct knowledge and make meaning of their learning experience for themselves. Students become global collaborators by utilizing technology to make connections with others to broaden perspective and learning through the creation of original products.

The World Championships, planned for April 24-27, 2019, is expected to bring nearly 35,000 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 Detroit, the second year in a row Michigan teams came out on top.

Grant applications for schools are available now on the Michigan Department of Education’s MEGS+ system and are due November 8, 2018.