FIRST Robotics teams gather in Escanaba for competition

FIRST Robotics teams from across the state, including 18 from the Upper Peninsula, are in Escanaba for a two-day competition.

Dozens of teams from high schools and other student groups came to show off their creations…robots than can pick up and shoot an inflatable ball into a hoop. Robotics team members get first hand experience in learning engineering and programming computers, which can lead to internships or jobs in the future.

“The thing that makes FIRST unique is that you work with the mentors, you work with the pros, you learn what they do on a daily basis,” Michigan’s FIRST Robotics President Gail Alpert said. “You’re exposed to these wonderful STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers if there’s something you’re interested in.”

“It also helps with community outreach because it gets more people involved and it gets more people interested in robotics,” Ypsilanti Community High School student Delmari Farrington said.  “I know we’ve gotten a few students (on the team) from hearing about it or talking about it.”

“I just kind of heard about it and it sounded pretty cool making robots,” Manistique High School student Kenny Davis said.  “It’s not Battlebots, but it’s still really fun.”

FIRST Robotics is growing not only in the state of Michigan, but also in the U.P.  This is the first time Escanaba has hosted a competition.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for so long and it finally came,” Alpert said.  “We’ve got enough teams now in the U.P. that we can have an event and have it populated by a lot of U.P. teams.  Other teams from downstate were excited to come as well, so it’s really fun.  We’re so excited to be here.”

More than 100 volunteers are also on hand to help run the competition.  Competition ends for the night at 7 p.m. tonight and starts again at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Escanaba High School.