Since 1997, Kettering University has been a leading university nationwide in supporting youth robotics programs and initiatives, including FIRST and VEX robotics.
“From very early on, Kettering recognized the impact that robotics programs could have in exciting young people about pursuing an education and a career in a STEM field,” said Dr. Robert K. McMahan, Kettering University President. “I am proud of this University and its long track record of creating and nurturing first-of-its-kind youth robotics programs and providing students in them with immersive experiences that unlock passions and develop skills that will transform their lives.”
McMahan discussed robotics education as part of a panel at TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) on July 17. The conference featured the industry’s best roboticists, technologists and investors. The topic of the panel, which also featured Ryan Keenan (Udacity) and David Barrett (Olin College), focused on how youth robotics programs and education can help solve talent gaps for robotics engineers as global demand for those skills rapidly increases.
Kettering was one of the first universities in the country to provide FIRST Robotics scholarships to students, awarding nearly $4 million in FIRST scholarships to students since 1997. The University began awarding VEX Robotics scholarships in 2014.
In 2015, Kettering opened the FIRST Robotics Community Center (FRCC) -- the only facility of its kind on a college campus in the country. The FRCC houses eight high school teams year-round, hosts dozens of visiting teams throughout the year, hosts students from around the Midwest for a growing offering of summer youth camps, and has allowed the Flint area to become a hub for youth robotics programs and activities.
“Michigan has more FIRST teams than any state in the country, and Kettering has served as a major facilitator for that growth,” McMahan said. “As these students grow and enter into the workforce carrying with them the skills they are gaining as young roboticists, Flint and Michigan increasingly being seen as a leading source of the most talented and creative students who are excited about robotics and STEM.”
Kettering’s FIRST Center was mentioned in Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2015 State of the State address as an example of a creative, impactful project that will help serve the state’s talent development needs. The FRCC has a regulation size, year-round FIRST practice field, allowing teams to experiment and build even during the offseason. The University also has hosted district events, each of which attract more than 40 teams from around Mid-Michigan, for 18 years. In 2016, Kettering became the only site in the country to host back-to-back district competitions, doing so on consecutive weekends in March. Kettering hosted back-to-back districts in 2017 as well.
“We at Kettering are committed to creating new opportunities for students to gain exposure to robotics and to providing them with meaningful experiences as valued members of a leading STEM and business university community,” McMahan said. “As pre-college students here, they not only learn about and use our state-of-the-art equipment and technology, but more importantly they are also mentored by our students, faculty and staff and are able to see firsthand the limitless possibilities of a career in STEM.”