On the outside, Vicki Stoddard this week is clad in pink clothing. As she contemplates her surroundings, though, she can’t help but feel a familiar swell of “red pride” in her heart.
The Bay City Western High School teacher is the founding coach for her institution’s FIRST Robotics team — a pink-themed group known as “Rise of the Warrior Bots” — as it competes in the state championships. The three-day contest featuring 160 high school teams is hosted by Saginaw Valley State University, where the mascot is a cardinal and students often boast about their “red pride” when declaring their school spirit.
Stoddard knows all about that. She is a two-time graduate of SVSU, proudly returning to her alma mater for this week’s occasion.
“It makes me so happy that our team has made it this far, and that I get to come back to SVSU to be part of it with them,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience.”
Stoddard’s group kicked off competition Thursday, and before the closing ceremonies scheduled Saturday, she hopes her team performs well enough to qualify for the world championships hosted later this month in Detroit. If so, it would be the second time in her team’s four-year history it qualified for the final competition.
Each FIRST Robotics season kicks off in January, when teams worldwide are presented with a multi-faceted game challenge that will be used in face-off matches against competing teams. Students square off at regional events, then advance to district championships like the one hosted at SVSU.
The theme for the 2018 FIRST Robotics competition is “Power Up.” It features two alliances of video game characters and their human operators who are trapped in a 1980s-style arcade game. Both alliances are working to defeat the boss in order to escape. In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.
Stoddard’s awareness of FIRST Robotics was nonexistent before her first year of teaching at Bay City Western in 2014, when a freshman student approached her about assembling a team.
“Bullock Creek High School brought their FIRST Robotics robot to our school one day, and I was really impressed by what I saw,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is manufacturing, this is industry-standard, this is where our future lies.’ I wanted to be part of that. I saw it as a challenge.”
Katelyn Doud, the freshman who introduced Stoddard to FIRST Robotics, recalled how her teacher’s determined spirit rallied the rookie team for a winning streak that landed it in the world championships in St. Louis, Missouri in April 2015.
“And we definitely would not have had as much fun that first year if it weren’t for her,” said Doud, now a senior that serves as team captain. “She really kept us together, especially that first year.”
The Rise of the Warrior Bots has grown in the years since. Stoddard and her students have recruited professional volunteers for help, from organizations such as Nexteer Automotive and Consumers Energy.
After a disappointing second season, the team advanced to the state championship last year, when SVSU hosted the event for the first time. It was a homecoming of sorts for Stoddard, a Reese native who earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 2004 — back when she was known as Vicki DuRussell — and a master’s degree in special education in 2016 at the institution.
Stoddard said the new venue in SVSU’s Ryder Center offered an exciting environment for FIRST Robotics. Teams there gather in the Ryder Center-based Fieldhouse, where students fine-tune machines in make-shift pit-stop stations before moving to the competitions next door in O’Neill Arena. The stadium-like setting is comparable to a sold-out college basketball game, with bleachers brimming with FIRST Robotics participants, parents and fans cheering on the competition underway where a hardwood court typically rests.
“It’s a great place to have this event,” Stoddard said. “I recognize so many professors and staff members who are here, volunteering to help out with things that our team typically has to do on our own at other places. As a person that’s trying to keep her team together, it makes my heart soar to see that.”
The support allows the teams to focus on the competition and the education it offers, she said.
“They need this experience for their future,” Stoddard said, referring to all students involved in FIRST Robotics.
“They need the team building, the personal interaction and the responsibility. It’s a sport for your mind.”
And your spirit, she added. Beyond the mechanical elements, Rise of the Warrior Bots’ 24 students handle fundraising, marketing and “team spirit” duties throughout the FIRST Robotics season.
In the stands at SVSU’s O’Neill Arena Thursday, the “team spirit” work was easy to spot. A sea of pink-shirted spectators cheered on the action. Stoddard was among them, in a familiar setting where her “red pride” had yet to fade.
The Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation is once again providing generous funding to allow Saginaw Valley State University and other partners to support K-12 teachers in their quest to become writing instructors and inspire a love of writing in their students.
The SVSU-based Saginaw Bay Writing Project will run a week-long writing workshop July 23-27, featuring a variety of learning opportunities and resources for up to 30 Michigan teachers.
“By going through the process of drafting, sharing, and revising their own writing, teachers will learn more about the challenges - and the joys - their students experience as writers,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of SVSU's Writing Center and the Saginaw Bay Writing Project. “We hosted a similar workshop in 2016 that was very well received, and we are grateful to the Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation for again supporting this important community need.”
The writing workshops will be led by John Mauk, who will focus on fiction writing, and Ann-Marie Oomen, who will teach on memoir writing. It will also feature guest speaker Colleen Cruz.
Mauk writes both college textbooks and fictional pieces. He graduated with a doctorate in English from Bowling Green State University and currently teaches at Miami University of Ohio.
Oomen writes plays, poetry, and memoirs. She currently teaches at Pine Manor College and the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat.
Cruz is the author of “The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.” She previously was a classroom teacher before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she currently serves as the director of innovation.
All workshop sessions will be held in Midland. Morning sessions will be held at the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio. Afternoon sessions will be held at Grace A. Dow Memorial Library.
Applications are available online to any teacher in the Great Lakes Bay Region and will be accepted until April 30.
The cost is $150 per person. Participants also can take advantage of an opportunity to obtain 25 free State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) credits or two SVSU credits, paid for by participants.
For more information and to apply, please visit svsu.edu/sbwp/vadabdowworkshop.
Saginaw Valley State University will welcome 160 high school robotics teams from across the state for the FIRST in Michigan state championships this week. The event is expected to draw about 5,000 high school students and 8,000 total visitors to campus each day of the competition.
This marks the second year SVSU has hosted the competition. The Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates last year’s event resulted in an economic impact of at least $1 million.
As an organization, FIRST in Michigan seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators. Many SVSU faculty and staff volunteer their time to support local schools and education programs, and more than 300 individuals - faculty, staff, students and alumni - volunteered during the 2017 state championships.
During competition, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.
The theme for the 2018 FIRST Robotics competition is "Power Up." It features two alliances of video game characters and their human operators who are trapped in a 1980s-style arcade game. Both alliances are working to defeat the boss in order to escape.
The anticipated daily schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, April 11: Teams will begin arriving to unload their robots and set up their pits (work spaces for making adjustments to the robots) around 2 p.m. and may work on their robots in the field house until 9 p.m.
Thursday, April 12: Practice matches will be held in the O’Neill Arena of SVSU’s Ryder Center from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies, including remarks from SVSU President Don Bachand, will begin at 3 p.m., and competition matches will run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
Friday, April 13: Matches are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Teams that qualified for the playoffs will form alliances that evening to prepare to compete on Saturday.
Saturday, April 14: Opening ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. Playoff matches are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The teams that qualify for the finals will calibrate their robots at 2 p.m., and the final playoff rounds will begin at 2:30 p.m. The awards presentations will follow, staring some time after 4 p.m. An SVSU staff member, John Leonard, is a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award given annually to one outstanding mentor advising a team involved in the worldwide competition. He is a mentor to the Bullock Creek High School FIRST Robotics team known as BlitzCreek Robotics.
For up-to-date information, visit www.svsu.edu/firstatsvsu.
Saginaw Valley State University will host a poetry reading by author Jane Mead Tuesday, April 17 at 5 p.m. in Founders Hall as part of the Voices in the Valley Reading Series.
Mead is the author of five collections of poetry. Her newest collection, “World of Made and Unmade,” was published in 2016 and became a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Mead has received multiple honors for her work, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and Lannan Foundation Completion Grant.
Mead completed a bachelor's degree in economics at Vassar College, a Master of Arts at Syracuse University, and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Iowa. She was a poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University for several years, and most recently taught as a visiting teacher at The University of Iowa. Today, Mead manages her family’s ranch in northern California
The reading is free and open to the public. For more information on the performance and the Voices in the Valley Reading Series, please call Arra Ross, SVSU associate professor of English, at (989) 964-4032.
Saginaw Valley State University's Valley Steel and SVSU Percussion Ensemble musicians will collaborate for a concert Monday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.
Among the planned performances include music from award-winning composer Lennox "Boogsie" Sharpe, a Trinidad-born musician popular for his work as an arranger of steelpan music. The program will feature a number of other composers such as David Maslanka, an author of music in the genres of choir, wind ensemble, chamber and symphony orchestra.
Valley Steel — directed by Katie Jessop, who received a bachelor’s degree in music education from SVSU in 2016 — features the talents of 10 SVSU musicians. Patrick Fitzgibbon, SVSU drumline coach, directs the SVSU Percussion Ensemble and its 10 student musicians.
For more information about the concert, please visit svsu.edu/music or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.
There is life in the machinery for John Leonard.
The Saginaw Valley State University laboratory support coordinator has enjoyed working with electronics in machine shop environments for as long as he can remember. What really brings him joy, though, is working alongside – and teaching – others who share the sentiment.
Now the Midland resident is being recognized for his work leading a group of high school students set to compete as one of 160 teams that qualified for the FIRST Robotics state championships hosted by SVSU Thursday to Saturday, April 12-14. Leonard is a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award dedicated annually to one outstanding mentor advising a team involved in the worldwide competition.
“I was surprised but honored when I heard about that,” said Leonard, an adviser to the Bullock Creek High School FIRST Robotics team known as BlitzCreek Robotics.
“It's a nomination completely submitted by students, which makes it even more of an honor.”
Eden Hackett, a Bullock Creek High School student and member of BlitzCreek Robotics, wrote a letter to nominate Leonard on behalf of the team.
“If there is one thing for sure, Mr. Leonard has a burning passion for BlitzCreek Robotics,” she wrote.
“He brings smiles, laughs, and innovation to our team. Being without Mr. Leonard would be like having a heart without arteries. He is an inspiration, a teacher, a friend, but most importantly, a mentor that keeps our team strong and on their toes.”
Leonard first became involved with the team when his daughter, Alex, was a senior at the high school. That was seven years ago. Since then, she graduated – and is now a history major at SVSU – but he decided to stay with BitzCreek Robotics after discovering his affection for empowering others passionate about working with technology.
“These are all students who want to be there,” Leonard said. “They're willing to spend as much time as is necessary because they're having fun doing it. They come in on Saturdays and Sundays, and near the end of the Robotics season, sometimes we have to kick them out of the building because the rules stipulate you can only work on the project for so many hours ahead of each competition.”
Leonard can relate to that fondness for working with gadgetry.
“I enjoy doing all of that: electronics, design work, machine shop work, restoring cars, building musical instruments,” he said. “I've always been involved in that kind of work. I love tinkering with technology.”
And while his role with BlitzCreek Robotics involves teaching others, the nature of the work sometimes results in a role reversal.
“These students bring things to the table that I don't know about,” he said. “I'm always learning things from them too.”
The theme for the 2018 FIRST Robotics competition is “Power Up.” It features two alliances of video game characters and their human operators who are trapped in a 1980s-style arcade game. Both alliances are working to defeat the boss in order to escape.
In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.
Each FIRST Robotics season kicks off in January, when teams worldwide are presented with a multi-faceted game challenge that will be used in face-off matches against competing teams. Students square off at regional events, then advance to district championships like the one hosted at SVSU later this month. Top-ranking teams from each district then match up in the world championships at the end of April, hosted this year both in Detroit and Houston.
Likewise, the pool of finalists for the Woodie Flowers Award will shrink after each round of competition. Leonard will learn if his nomination advances to the international level during the competition at SVSU.
About 5,000 high school students from 160 teams will be involved in the state championships at SVSU. In total, more than 8,000 people will visit the Great Lakes Bay Region for the competition, including mentors, family members and FIRST volunteers.
For more information about FIRST Robotics, visit www.svsu.edu/firstatsvsu.
Saginaw Valley State University students and faculty — along with musicians from the community — will perform a flute concert this week for audiences.
The SVSU Flute Choir will take the stage Friday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Founders Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.
Musical selections for the concert include work composed by both historical and contemporary musicians, from 18th century Austrian composer Joseph Haydn to Gary Schocker, a flutist who has worked alongside some of today’s most respected orchestras and symphonies in the world.
The choir is directed by Townes Osborn Miller, an instructor of music at SVSU.
The SVSU Flute Choir is open to adding musicians from outside of the campus population, including high school junior and senior flute players as well as members of the community.
For more information about Friday’s concert, please visit svsu.edu/music or call the SVSU Department of Music at (989) 964-4159.
Born in the Motown era of Detroit, award-winning jazz vocalist Kathy Kosins expands the rich history of jazz and soul with her diverse musical taste. She will join the SVSU Jazz Ensemble for a must-see musical performance Thursday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
Kosins began singing in the early 1980s when she sang and arranged the background vocals for producer Don Was, which led her to becoming one of the most sought after session singers. She has released five critically-acclaimed solo albums and has recorded with popular jazz artists such as Terell Stafford, Randy Brecker, and Michael Henderson.
Beyond her personal performances, Kosins has traveled to colleges and universities across the United States to support independent artists by teaching them performance skills and business strategies.
Singing is not her only art form. Kosins also excels as a painter and sells her work at art galleries and concert performances. During her visit to SVSU, she will meet with students and explore the intersection between jazz and painting as well as her live performance.
Her concert is free and open to the public. It is supported by the Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists program at SVSU, which was established through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our regional cultural and intellectual opportunities.
A group of Saginaw Valley State University students have been honored at a national level for inspiring their peers to embrace school spirit and to give back to their campus and surrounding community.
SVSU's Forever Red received the Outstanding Student Organization award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for District 5, which encompasses colleges and universities in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Forever Red's goals are based on three pillars: connecting with SVSU alumni, enhancing the student experience on campus, and promoting “Red Pride,” a phrase associated with SVSU school spirit.
“There are student advancement organizations all over the country doing some amazing things,” said Bryan Crainer, the group's adviser and SVSU's associate dean for student life and leadership programs.
“I think what really separates Forever Red among its peer organizations is that they are doing it all. They aren't just a student-alumni organization, or a student-foundation organization, or an ambassador group. They are all of those things.”
Forever Red has quickly established itself as an elite student organization in the Midwest. Formed in 2011, it has won the Outstanding Student Organization award twice in the past three years.
The organization's president, Morgan Seeley, a history education major from Breckenridge, won the 2018 CASE District 5 Outstanding Student Leader award two years after Kim Salwey, the Forever Red president in 2016, received the same award.
Forever Red's growing legacy is a testament to the development of programs geared to engage with alumni and organize fundraising campaigns that support student scholarships. One of those successful initiative is the Cardinal Forever Initiative. Forever Red sells SVSU t-shirts for $1 during Fresh Start, an event aimed at acclimating freshman to life at SVSU during the beginning of the academic year.
“From that first day on campus, when Forever Red sells a freshman a t-shirt, their goal is to share their ‘Red Pride’ in hopes that the feeling rubs off on other,” said Crainer.
Forever Red also generates school spirit through events on campus including a 5K competition during the days leading up to the football Homecoming game as well as "I Heart SV Week," another scholarship fundraising drive that collected $4,200 recently.
“Forever Red understands that the university is at its strongest – and will be into the future – when its constituents have a deep sense of pride in the institution,” Crainer said.
A Saginaw Valley State University student known across campus for enthusiastically promoting school spirit has earned a coveted honor for her passionate advocacy.
Morgan Seeley, a history education major from Breckenridge, received the Outstanding Student Leader award from The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for District 5, which includes colleges and universities in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin..
Seeley, who will graduate in May, earned the award largely based on her engaging work with Forever Red, an SVSU student organization. Forever Red's goals are based on three pillars: connecting with SVSU alumni, enhancing the student experience on campus, and promoting "Red Pride," a phrase associated with SVSU school spirit.
“Usually a student will find that one or two of those pillars really resonates with them,” said Bryan Crainer, Forever Red’s adviser. “Morgan is a unique case where she fully buys into each of the organization's pillars and strives to see the organization excel in each of those areas.”
When she was appointed president of Forever Red for this academic year, Seeley continued to build upon the foundation set by her predecessors, Crainer said.
“She challenged the organization to improve the programs that have become traditions, and explore new ways to reach students, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Crainer, SVSU's associate dean for student life and leadership programs.
In addition to her individual award, Seeley learned that the organization she leads also earned recognition from CASE District 5. Forever Red received the Outstanding Organization award.
“For me, it's more exciting that Forever Red won this tremendous award,” Seeley said. “I am so grateful to have been named the Outstanding Student Leader, but the biggest reward has been seeing the organization get the recognition it deserves.”
Forever Red organizes fundraising events throughout the year to support student scholarships. One scholarship drive, "I Heart SV Week," collected $4,200 recently. Another successful endeavor is the Cardinal Forever Initiative where Forever Red sells SVSU t-shirts for $1 during Fresh Start, an event that introduces freshmen to life at SVSU.
Seeley may have recognized a hint of the support from CASE during the beginning of her term as Forever Red president. In August 2017, she attended a CASE national conference where she presented on Forever Red to an audience of peers from similar organizations at other higher education institutions. Attendees watching the presentation were given blank comment cards and encouraged to provide written feedback to the conference's presenters.
When she finished speaking, Seeley collected the response cards.
“There were stacks of them,” she said. “There was so much positive reaction to what I was telling them about Forever Red. So many people told me they wanted to implement what Forever Red is doing at SVSU in their own colleges”
Seeley and Forever Red are continuing a tradition where CASE District 5 recognizes student passion and dedication at SVSU. In 2016, Kim Salwey, Forever Red's president at the time, earned the Outstanding Student Leader award while her organization simultaneously received the Outstanding Organization honor.