Detroit gears up for national 2018 robotics competition

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Gov. Rick Snyder rolled out the red carpet ahead of what could be called the World Cup of contraptions Thursday.

The FIRST Robotics Global Championship, an annual, nationwide high school robotics competition, heads to Detroit in 2018 and Snyder wanted to showcase the event.

“We’re so proud to have the opportunity to host the world championships here,” Snyder said. “We’re not going to make this the end of something. It’s just the beginning of a wonderful thing happening right here in the comeback city, Detroit.”

Sydney Grassmyer of Novi High School shows off her group’s robot named Sir Miggy’s Magna Machine, part of a demonstration of the FIRST Robotics Global Championship that will come to Detroit.

Snyder made the remarks at a news conference at Cobo Center to welcome the event to Michigan. He was joined by inventor, entrepreneur and FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen; Ken Morris, General Motors Corp.’s vice president of global product integrity; and Larry Alexander, president and CEO of Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

FIRST Robotics Global Championship is split into two events. One half will be held April 25-28, 2018, at Cobo Center in Detroit. The next portion will be held April 18-21 in Houston.

FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen, left, joins Gov. Rick Snyder and automotive executive Francois Castaing after a press conference at the North American International Auto Show celebrating the competition.

Houston and St. Louis currently host the main event for the mechanical machines.

“Michigan, I think, has been a model the world needs to see,” said Kamen.

“I’m excited we’re having the world championship here in 2018.”

Kamen is known for inventing the first drug-infusion pump and the Segway, the two-wheeled electric vehicle. He started the FIRST Robotics program in 1989 to inspire interest and participation in science and technology among youths. FIRST” is an acronym of “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

In the FIRST Robotics Competition, teams of 25 high school students get six weeks to build and program robots from a kit to perform tasks, such as picking up a ball and throwing it. Teams also have to raise money, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills and perform community outreach.

This seasonis expected to be the program’s largest with 3,336 teams from 25 countries competing in 80 District Events, 10 District Championships and 55 Regional Events.

Snyder said Michigan has more than 10,000 students on more than 400 FIRST Robotics high school teams.

Alexander said the marriage between the contest and Detroit “are a perfect match.”

“The mission of FIRST aligns with the DNA of the region,” he said.

Shivani Bongu, 14, of Novi, a member of Novi High School’s FIRST robotics team, said she’s excited the global championship is coming to Detroit. Shivani and some of her teammates gave a demonstration with their battle bot.

“It’s home,” she said. “We’re rebuilding the city, and Detroit is coming back to its former glory. I’m excited to show that off.”