Macomb County FIRST Robotics Showcase Connects Students With Local Businesses

Macomb County businesses collide with the county's 20 FIRST Robotics teams to build relationships and provide mentorships, materials and more.

Building a bridge between industry and future employees is key for local businesses to thrive in Macomb County. After all, the industry is evolving, and fresh talent is integral to continued success.

“We know just looking at the shared numbers, we’re going to have a major issue with talent attraction,” says Vicky Rad, the director of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. “We’ve got a lot of individuals hitting retirement age in Macomb County and then, when you compare that with the incoming millennials that are entering the workforce, there’s about a 100,000-person gap. So in the next five to 10 years, we not only have to keep who we’ve got in Macomb County; we have to attract new talent to the county.”

That’s why the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development launched its Fueling the Talent Pipeline initiative, part of which includes teaming up with I.AM. Robot, the International Academy of Macomb’s FIRST Robotics team and the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) for the FIRST Robotics Showcase on Dec. 11, 2019.

This second annual event, which is the brainchild of I.AM. Robot, connects the county’s 20 FIRST Robotics teams with local businesses that can potentially act as mentors, provide monetary assistance and materials – and ultimately establish a connection with future local talent.

This takes place at the Macomb Intermediate School District, located at 44001 Garfield Road in Clinton Township. It is free to attend, but registration is required. Read on for more about this annual event.

Creating connections

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Macomb County doesn’t have as many FIRST Robotics teams as some of its counterparts, says Shannon Williams, MISD career and technical education consultant. Part of it has to do with cost, but for a lot of teams, it’s a struggle to build that strong connection with industry for physical items they need to create their robot projects – and the support of mentors in the field.

“We’re trying to get that number much higher so more kids can get involved,” Williams says of the teams. But more teams equals more sponsorships needed and higher cost. So, with the help of this event, the MISD and the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development are trying to generate some buzz in the community.

“This is important. Everyone should be involved, so let’s all get on board and we can help in one way or another,” Williams says.

That’s where this second annual event comes in.

“This event is really designed to bring those two pieces together, to showcase the teams that we have, to make it easy for our companies in the area to come and connect,” Williams says.

This year, they are developing a brochure that will indicate what each team’s need is – as those needs vary.

“Some teams might need a mentor, some teams might need access to equipment, some teams might just need financial support in order to buy the supplies,” Williams notes.

Businesses – which are able to support more than one team – can browse the brochure for an understanding of each team’s needs and then stop by their booth to make that connection.

“We’re not forcing connections,” Williams adds. “We’re just creating a platform for connections to be made between the teams and businesses who might be interested.”

Each of the 20 FIRST Robotics teams in Macomb County has been invited to showcase their robots at this event, Rad says.

“At the showcase, they have the ability to highlight what their program does” to different businesses in industry, says Rad. “If they are not familiar with FIRST, this is an opportunity for businesses to come see what they are doing. Our businesses want to find a way to step in the gap,” she adds, and this is an ideal way to do it.

Through volunteering and mentoring, these businesses are able to help students understand their business – and, ultimately, look to them as a potential place of work.

“This is our open invitation to businesses to come in and learn about the FIRST Robotics program within the county, but also to step in (to fill) the gap and help our kids get to the goals they are trying to reach within their programs – ultimately knowing there’s a longer-term goal,” Rad says.

Click here to register for the Robotics Showcase. It is free and doors open at 3:45 p.m. and the program runs 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information on Macomb County, visit the Make Macomb Your Home website.

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