E D U B O T S
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS
Kettering University: A New Home For Flint F.I.R.E., by Harrison Ford
As a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) mentor, Kettering University senior Harrison Ford coaches hard work while instilling confidence and emphasizing the advantages of education. “I want to help inner city kids in Flint, MI go to college.” Here’s Harrison’s inspiring report:
In 2014, Flint Northern High School closed. As a mentor for the high school’s FIRST Robotics team, I wasn’t sure what the future held for us. So, the FIRST Robotics Center at Kettering University was pretty important to our team, the Flint FIRE (Flint Inspires Real Engineers). The Center gives high school robotics teams permanent space to build robots for competitions, access to a machine shop with great equipment, and, most importantly, connections to mentors on the college campus at Kettering University. It’s the only FIRST Center in the country on a college campus, and fortunately, it opened in the autumn of 2014, just as our team found itself in need of a new place to build.
As mentors for kids on the FIRE team, our mission is a little different than other robotics teams. Winning competitions is not our goal. Our goal is simple—we want to get kids excited about going to college and to find ways to get them there.
My own personal experience shows that using youth robotics as a path into STEM education and careers works. I’ve participated in FIRST programs since I was in the sixth grade. In high school, I was a member of the Megatron Oracles team at Carman-Ainsworth High School in Flint Township. Through participating in FIRST, I received a FIRST Robotics scholarship to Kettering University, one of the country’s top-ranked engineering schools, where I’m nearly finished with my degree in mechanical engineering. When I came to Kettering, there were no surprises. I was already prepared to take on new challenges because of FIRST.
Youth robotics programs provide a way for kids to be trained in technical skills; they teach teamwork and provide life lessons. FIRST is a competition, but truly, I don’t care about competition, I care about getting these kids to college and helping them get scholarships for college. That’s one of the reasons I became involved as a mentor. I wanted to help inner city kids in Flint go to college.
Our team focuses on working hard each day and the importance of learning new things. Our students are hungry for opportunity. The more they learn, the more confident they become and the more they start raising their personal expectations.
Since moving into the FIRST Center at Kettering, our team has been able to expand to include students from both Flint high schools and from the University of Michigan-Flint’s Genesee Early College. Not only has the center given them a place to build, it has also given them a chance to meet and work with the other teams who use the FIRST Center, to work with Kettering faculty and students, and to learn what it’s like to spend time on a college campus. FIRST has shown them the opportunities that a college education could open up for them.
FIRST Robotics has been a major part of my life and education. I wanted to become a mentor to pass on to other students everything I received from the individuals who invested time and effort in me over the years. I know firsthand the power that programs like FIRST offer. This isn’t even a sport. It’s a family. Most kids can go toss a ball, kick a ball, or shoot a ball, but it takes a lot to say, “I can come together with people and build something.”
That’s what this facility represents and what we are trying to teach the students on the Flint FIRE team.