State Sets Aside More Than $3M for School Robotics Programs


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More than $3 million in state grants are available to schools across Michigan to advance robotics programs.

Photo courtesy of FIRST Championship

Michigan has made $3 million in grants available for public schools and $300,000 in grants available for non-public schools for robotics programs, the Michigan Department of Education and the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan announced Wednesday.

The grants will be awarded by the Michigan Department of Education and are part of the state’s investment in STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, programming through building robots for competitions. The new funds will assist schools in competing at the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Detroit next April.

Local school districts may also use the grants to participate in the VEX Robotics program and its Robotics Education and Competition. Non-public school may use their funds to participate in the Science Olympiad, as well.

“Robotics programs are a true success story in action and will help Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years,” says Sheila Alles, interim state superintendent. “It partners business and education to help students understand many of the 21st century skills needed in the careers of today and the future. It also is an opportunity for students to try their hand at many careers ranging from business and information technology to manufacturing and other professional trades careers.”

Michigan FIRST Robotics teams took home the World Championship title for two years running.

“As we work to implement the Marshall Plan for Talent to better connect Michiganders with the high-demand, high-wage careers available in the Comeback State, expanding successful programs like FIRST Robotics in Michigan’s schools will be an essential tool to help students explore these great careers in STEAM fields,” says Roger Curtis, director of the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan.

FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – was formed in 1989 to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators. It has been a transformational program for many students and continues to be a catalyst for growing student interest in high-demand careers currently going unfilled.

Robotics programs offer students opportunities to solve problems in creative ways and make meaning of their learning experience.

Research shows that students participating in FIRST programs across the state are two times as likely to major in science or engineering in college, and 75 percent of FIRST alumni are currently in a STEAM field as a student or professional.

“If Michigan is to lead the world in the race for the most and best talent for business, programs like FIRST Robotics are essential to our success,” says Curtis. “This investment by the Michigan Department of Education shows we – together as a state – are committed to making sure our students are adequately prepared for the careers of today and the future. This is a smart investment that will keep Michigan moving forward.”

The $3 million in grants adds to more than $12 million the state has invested in FIRST teams since 2014.

The FIRST Robotics World Championships are planned for April 24-27, 2019 and will bring nearly 35,000 students and 700 teams to Ford Field and Cobo Center with four levels of competition. At the 2018 championship, two Michigan teams were part of the winning alliance at the World Championships in Detroit, the second year in a row Michigan teams came out on top.

Grant applications are available now on the Michigan Department of Education’s MEGS+ system and are due Nov. 8.

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