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Upton Highlights FIRST Robotics in Congressional Hearing

Bipartisan hearing featured Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST

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Washington, September 14, 2016 | comments

The Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade on Wednesday held a bipartisan hearing focused on advanced robots, and specifically the success of the STEM education program, FIRST Robotics. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The program has grown from 20 to more than 45,000 teams nationwide since it was founded in 1989. Michigan has by far the highest number of FIRST teams per capita in the country. The hearing brought together educators, industry, and stakeholders in exploring the future of advanced robotics applications, educational initiatives, and how the United States is positioned to leverage these innovations in the future.

“I have a personal relationship with FIRST Robotics and am a very proud supporter. From the St. Joseph ‘Average Joes’ team to the ‘2767 Stryke Force’ team in Kalamazoo, innovative STEM programs – like FIRST Robotics – allows for kids in our communities to dream big and aspire to become inventors, engineers, small business owners, and community leaders,” said Upton. “I’ve been to numerous competitions across the state, and I’m always impressed with what the kids come up with. It’s inspiring and refreshing to see kids inspired by science.”

“FIRST Robotics has helped so many kids here in St. Joseph High School develop science, technology, engineering, and math skills and confidence over the years it’s been incredible,” noted Vic Vroegop, instructor of the “Average Joe” team at St. Joseph HS. “It has literally changed the culture at our school and our community. It has provided a vehicle where students can apply what they have learned in all of their classes, consult with mentors who are professionals in their respective fields and come up with real world engineering solutions for the FIRST yearly challenge. I want to thank Dean Kamen and Fred Upton for their support of this awesome program that has created such opportunity for our kids.”

“We like to call FIRST Robotics the ultimate sport for the mind and it has such an amazing impact for participants who go from FIRST to leading the way in the classroom and beyond,” commented Gervea Ornopia, STEM advocate and teacher at Berrien Springs Middle School “It gives high school students the opportunity to work and create something together to solve a common problem. Having a champion for our team and program in Congress like Fred Upton sets a great example for our young adults.”

“Dean Kamen and Fred Upton’s testimony before Congress reiterates what we already know: Robots are cool and kids are flocking to FIRST to be part of this innovative STEM program,” said Dale Quattrin, instructor of the Coloma HS CW Tech Robotarians. “Fred has been a long-time supporter of FIRST and we appreciate his support and encouragement. It’s important to meet kids where they are – whether it be in the classroom or through inventive programs like FIRST.”

Upton is also the co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation that would use the sale of a commemorative coin for astronaut Christa McAullife, who was tragically lost in the Challenger disaster, to raise money for FIRST programs in Southwest Michigan and across the country. You can learn more about this legislation here.

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