Thomas G. Stephens

General Motors Corp., Pontiac

As Michigan strives to retain its college graduates, General Motors Corp. Group Vice President Thomas G. Stephens helps ensure that high- school students make it to the next level. “When I started with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1997, there were around 60 kids in the region building robots and competing against other students around the country,” says Stephens (center). “This year we should be at around 7,000 [local] kids, and we’ll add more next year.”

While Stephens is quick to point out that he and dozens of other area mentors help guide the students, their more important mission “is making sure the students have the resources to compete.” The challenge is simple: The teams build robots that can race around a track, while adding features to knock off, move, or replace four 40-inch balls on a rack. The regional contest starts in mid-March. “I want to be an aeronautics engineer, and I thought this contest would help me,” says Kirk Brooks, (right of Stephens) a sophomore at Pontiac Northern High School. “I’d like to work for GM and make my way to NASA to work on spaceships.”

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