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"Outta' My Mind on a Saturday Moanin'"

As I broadcast from my 19th Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference I am amazed at the great job chamber CEO Sandy Baruah continues to do, along with Michigan managing partner of Deloitte LLP and 2015 conference chair Mark Davidoff, in bringing together so many people who have a very real stake in Michigan's over all success.

There are far too many notables to start naming all of them, but you can hear them on WJR, or read about them in all of the newspapers and see them on local television.

One of the presenters and guests on my show who I have to mention is a guy I first met in 1989, through former Delphi CEO J.T. Battenberg and (at the time) Chrysler's Francois Castaing.

This guy, they told me, had an idea that he thought would motivate the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology.

He called this idea, this plan, FIRST, which stood for, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology."

This little idea that was presented to me in 1989, will this year serve more than 300,000 young people, ages 6 to 18, in more than 50 countries around the world.

Today, high school-aged participants are eligible to apply for more than $15 million in scholarships from leading colleges, universities and corporations.

When I was asked to broadcast from FIRST's Inaugural National Championships in Orlando, Florida many years ago, I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

The "non-athletes" from high school, kids who were probably called "nerds" or worse, were walking to the sounds of bagpipers to do "robotic battle" with other kids who were loving science and technology as well.

Finally, they got a chance to be hoisted upon shoulders and chant "We're Number One" in a way that would prove to be much more significant to our countries future than any single star athlete.

And though serial inventor" Dean Kamen will long be remembered for inventing the first wearable infusion pump, including the one used for diabetics to get their insulin, advanced prosthetic arms for returning injured soldiers, the Segway Human Transporter and now, the world changing "Slingshot" water purification system, FIRST will remain one of Dean's proudest accomplishments.

And one of America's most important ones.

Paul W. Smith is host of The Paul W. Smith Show on WJR-AM (760).

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