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April 12, 2017

FIRST Robotics state championships at SVSU

Saginaw Valley State University will host the FIRST in Michigan statewide high school robotics competition Thursday, April 13 through Saturday, April 15. Some teams will be arriving and unloading their equipment Wednesday, April 12.

This is an action-packed, highly visual event. In each round, three teams compete using autonomous and remote-controlled robots piloted by students, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

A total of 160 Michigan high school teams from St. Joseph to Houghton have qualified for the contest. This will bring nearly 5,000 students and more than 7,500 total visitors to the Great Lakes Bay Region for an estimated economic impact of $1.2 million. (A full list of teams can be found here:

FIRST calls its robotics program "a varsity sport for the mind" that allows students to learn from professional engineers and qualify for college scholarships (nearly $25 million nationwide). It is designed to inspire students to pursue careers in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

This year's theme is STEAMworks. Check out the link below for a short explanation of the challenge. (Keep in mind, these are high school students building and programming the robots to do all this!

The positive impact on FIRST Robotics participants is well documented. Over 88 percent have more interest in school, 97 percent have an increased desire to learn more about STEM and 92 percent are more interested in attending college.

One example is Nevin Steinbrink, who competed in FIRST during high school; he has since graduated from SVSU with a mechanical engineering degree and has launched his own engineering firm in Old Town Saginaw. (

Michigan had the largest increase in teams in 2016 with nearly 60 new teams signing up this year for a total of 450 teams competing throughout the state. (By comparison, California has fewer than 300 teams.)

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, April 13. Matches are scheduled in the Ryder Center from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Friday, matches are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 6 p.m.

A total of 32 teams will advance to the playoff rounds Saturday, April 15. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Playoff matches will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The championship matches will take place from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Throughout Thursday and Friday, teams will be assembled in the “pits” (SVSU field house), making final adjustments to their robots.

Free shuttle service between Fashion Square Mall and SVSU is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday. SVSU dining facilities, the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, and other campus venues will have extended hours during the competition. For details on these services and more information, visit