October 27, 2017
FIRST Robotics scholarship recipients bring their work ethic and talents to SVSU
Bryce Stevens knew he was headed to college. His experience competing in the FIRST Robotics state finals at Saginaw Valley State University, coupled with a new SVSU scholarship for FIRST in Michigan robotics competitors, convinced him to choose SVSU.
After spending three days on campus in April – his Jacktown Vectors FIRST Robotics team advanced to the semifinals – Stevens said he could not imagine himself going to any other school.
“SVSU felt homier,” Stevens said.
The graduate of Hanover-Horton High School had scholarship offers elsewhere, so when John Riedeman, Stevens' mentor and team advisor at the Jackson Area Career Center, approached him with information on SVSU's FIRST Robotics Scholarship opportunity, Stevens was sold.
A mechanical engineering major, Stevens was one of three students to receive the renewable $4,000 scholarship, available to students who competed on FIRST Robotics teams in high school. He and fellow scholarship recipients Waliul Matin and Kiley Mowry - now all SVSU freshmen - learned about the scholarship opportunity while competing with 4,800 other students in the FIRST Robotics state championship hosted on SVSU's campus April 12-15.
All three recipients see the scholarship as a chance to advance more easily beyond the challenges - academic, financial or social - that college freshmen sometimes endure.
The FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology to help high school students discover how rewarding a career in engineering or technology can be. Remote-controlled robots, piloted by students and cheered on by thousands of screaming fans, go head-to-head in short games on the floor of a sports arena, battling it out to earn points during a two-minute round.
As an exchange student from Bangladesh, Matin said he had very little pocket money to spend on the admission cost to join the Royal Oak robotics team, The RoboRavens. However, his advisors saw his potential and waived the entrance fee so he could join the team, and ultimately, compete in the state championship.
This small act of kindness gave Matin the opportunity to travel to SVSU with his team, which advanced to the quarterfinals of its division. An electrical engineering major, Matin estimates he built about 40 percent of his team’s competition robot.
Attending college in the U.S can be quite costly for international students. Matin said that if he wanted to study in this country, he would need as much financial freedom as possible. SVSU was able to give him the peace of mind he needed to pursue his love of robotics, and hopefully land him his dream job with NASA. (SVSU alumnus Tony Ceccacci served as lead flight director for NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis mission STS-125/HST SM4 to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, and he arranged to have an SVSU pennant fly aboard. The pennant is on display in SVSU’s Pioneer Hall.
Competing on a FIRST Robotics team teaches you about overcoming challenges. For Kiley Mowry, she sometimes had to fight a little harder to make her voice heard. Her team from Midland’s H.H. Dow High School, The Charge, consisted of more females than most, but at times, she still had to work hard to get the attention of some of the team’s male members.
Mowry started working on the team as a sophomore, doing odd jobs, but eventually worked her way up to become a co-captain her senior year. In this position, she oversaw a group of over 50 high school students.
A mechanical engineering major, Mowry said that the FIRST Robotics Scholarship offers valuable support for students, giving them more opportunities to pursue what interests them. She has joined SVSU's Cardinal Formula Racing team, which twice (2008 and 2014) has built the fastest college race car in the world.
"The scholarship has helped take pressure off me as a student not just financially, but also it helps to know that there are people that believe in me," she said.
As for Stevens, he is using the money he received from the scholarship to pursue his aspirations of becoming a mentor to other students, just as Riedman had been to him.
"If I had to choose a dream job, I would choose to be in charge of my own Robotics team at a career center like Mr. Riedman," Stevens said.