FIRST Robotics set to return to SVSU on Wednesday

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SVSU is set to host the FIRST Robotics state competition for the second consecutive year from Wednesday, April 11, until Saturday, April 14.

FIRST Robotics is an international high school robotics competition. Students, coaches and mentors had six weeks to build a game-playing robot and then compete in district events. Teams who are successful at the district level then compete at the state championship at SVSU to earn a spot at the world championship, taking place in Houston and Detroit later this year.

In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

Adrianne Cole, the director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at SVSU, said this year’s theme is “Power Up.”

“Two alliances (teams) are trapped in an arcade game,” she said. “To escape, alliances use power cubes to control switches and a scale. Robots must be programmed and controlled to move the power cubes throughout the competition field to earn points during the match. Robots can also climb a central tower for additional points and to defeat the ‘game boss.’”

Cole said some of the changes that will be made from last year’s competition include widening doorways in the Ryder Center between the arena and the fieldhouse to better accommodate robot traffic, as well as pedestrian traffic in the area. The robots will be able to move directly between the two spaces instead of circling around the arena.

Practice sessions and robot repairs will take place in SVSU’s fieldhouse, while competition events will be held in O’Neill Arena of the Ryder Center.

Major sponsors for the state championships include Consumers Energy, The Dow Chemical Company, DTE Energy and Ford Motor Company.

Many SVSU faculty and staff volunteer their time to support local schools and education programs. More than 300 individuals – faculty, staff, students and alumni – volunteered during the 2017 state championships.

“Some of our current SVSU students were part of their high school FIRST robotics teams and enjoyed volunteering at the state championship last year – we hope that this continues again this year,” Cole said. “For high school students, many that are from other regions in the state are unfamiliar with our campus. I spoke with many FIRST robotics participants and family members last year, and they were incredibly impressed with our campus and what we offer to our SVSU students. This could potentially increase SVSU’s enrollment in future years.”

The event is a boon to local businesses. The Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the economic impact of last year’s event to be at least $1 million.

Cole expects to see a similar result for this year’s event.

“The impact on the community was tremendous – all the local hotels were full, and restaurants were very busy during last year’s event,” Cole said. “We anticipate the same this year.”

FIRST Robotics teams that qualify for the state finals will arrive Wednesday for inspection. The qualifying rounds of competition are throughout the day Thursday and Friday. The playoff rounds will be Saturday with the champion crowned that afternoon.

“One of the things that we do really well at SVSU is to make people feel welcome on our campus,” Cole said. “Thank you to all the volunteers who made last year’s event so successful and thank you to all who are volunteering this year. The impact on our campus and the community is truly amazing.”

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