SVSU to host statewide robotics competition

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SVSU is set to host the FIRST Robotics state competition from Wednesday, April 12, until Saturday, April 15.

There is expected to be 160 teams competing and more than 7,500 people visiting the region for the competition.

“We were approached by FIRST because of the tremendous facilities on our campus,” said Executive Director of STEM@SVSU Carolyn Wierda. “FIRST has grown from 120 teams last year to 160 teams this year requiring a larger facility. We are thrilled to host the event.”

The competitions operate similar to sporting events with remote-controlled robots piloted by students going head-to-head in short, sports-like games.

The competition will take up much of the athletic complex on campus. Practice sessions and robot repairs will take place in SVSU’s field house, while competition events will be held in O’Neill Arena.

The university will also be using the competition as a means of attracting college-bound students to SVSU. Student ambassadors will be assigned to each team to give tours, and every participant will get a “FIRST at SVSU” T-shirt. SVSU is also planning to offer scholarships to competitors.

“What an opportunity we have for exposure,” Wierda said. “We’re going to take every single opportunity we can. Hosting the event is a wonderful opportunity to show 4,800 high school students every part of our campus including our Science, Engineering and Technology College, as well as to host full campus tours.”

On Thursday, shuttle buses will run to SVSU from the various hotels the teams are staying at, and the teams will not be parking on campus that day. However, they will be parking on campus Friday and Saturday.

“This is a great event to bring to SVSU,” Director of Media & Community Relations J.J. Boehm said. “As a community partner, we recognize this is a huge economic boost for our region. This also provides us with a terrific opportunity to introduce SVSU, and our STEM programs in particular, to high school students from across the state.”

SVSU hopes that hosting the competition will benefit the institution, but the influx of people coming to the area is also expected to generate over $1.2 million for the region.

“The Great Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the impact to our region at $1.2 million with hotel rooms and meals for the visitors,” Wierda said.

Teams that qualify for the state competition will arrive on campus Wednesday, April 12. Qualifying rounds will take place on April 13 and April 14. Then, 32 teams will advance to the playoff round which takes place on April 15.

“Personally, I’m excited for so many to visit on campus to experience this exciting STEM event and of course thrilled to show our visitors the incredible campus we love,” Wierda said. “We have many opportunities for students, staff and faculty to volunteer to support this event.”

SVSU will look for up to 300 volunteers per day at the event. Those interested in volunteering can contact Wierda at [email protected].