The U.S. Army is modernizing. Here’s how local FIRST Robotics students will one day help.

Robots are changing the way we do almost everything. How we shop, receive healthcare, drive – nothing is off the table and a wide range of industries are adapting to keep pace. Perhaps leading the pack is the United States military. All five branches have made technological advancements to better protect the country and its citizens. In particular, the U.S. Army is already employing various robotic and autonomous systems, but it has clearly set a course to do much more.

In March of 2017, the U.S. Army’s Capabilities Integration Center published the first Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy with a central objective:

“The Army must pursue robotic and autonomous systems capabilities with urgency because adversaries are developing and employing a broad range of advanced robotic and autonomous systems technologies as well as employing new tactics to disrupt U.S. military strengths and exploit perceived weaknesses. Robotic and autonomous systems are increasingly important to ensuring freedom of maneuver and mission accomplishment with the least possible risk to soldiers.”

ausaWith that goal in mind, the Association of the U.S. Army recently hosted an Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition in Detroit. The two-day event saw hundreds of military leaders, defense industry representatives and robotics experts gather to showcase how the U.S. Army is developing critical capabilities in robotics, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The ultimate goal – provide an open forum for attendees to discuss the Army’s efforts in creating autonomous systems while also providing a platform for industry partners to demonstrate technology breakthroughs that could help the military.

Four Macomb County FIRST Robotics teams took full advantage of that platform. Working with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, these high school students had access to a special booth on the show floor. Here they demonstrated their engineering and programming skills by driving their custom-built robots and executing challenges. But perhaps more importantly, the space allowed the students to explain their FIRST Robotics program to high-ranking military leaders who had never heard of the organization.

As background, FIRST Robotics is a program that inspires young people to become science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs and competitions. These events challenge students to raise funds, design a brand, hone teamwork skills and build and program industrial-size robots that play difficult field games against like-minded competitors. Simply put – it’s training that will build the STEM-ready workforce of tomorrow. These students will one day fill jobs like mechanical engineer or software developer. They will drive innovation and create solutions to problems that we have yet to encounter. They will lead us into the future.

Why would this matter to the U.S. Army? Well, the technological experience and problem solving abilities of FIRST Robotics students will be key to modernizing the military for the 21st century and beyond. And while the majority of these young people will likely enter the private sector, anything they invent or develop will crossover and be of use to the Army. So having the opportunity to meet these students now, while they are still in high school, can help the military forecast their future. Which is why several leaders visited the Macomb County/FIRST Robotics booth. They engaged the students in conversation, asked questions and inquired about sponsorships and internships. All told, they sparked the beginning of what could be a very mutually beneficial relationship that will help advance the interests of both the FIRST students and the U.S. Army now and well into the future.

Please note: You do not have to be in the military to make a connection with these talented FIRST Robotics students. So if you work for or run a company that would be interested in sponsorship, mentoring, hosting or simply meeting these teams, click here to take the next step. Macomb County Planning and Economic Development will help you reach the right team and build the right relationship.

Thank you to the four FIRST teams that participated at the expo:

  • ThunderChickens: Founded 20 years ago, the ThunderChickens are based out of Sterling Heights and the Utica Community Schools. The team, which has more than 100 students, has been to the FIRST Robotics World Championship 17 times, winning the event twice. In 2018, the ThunderChickens were a runner-up.
  • Crevolution: Crevolution is a FIRST team, created by The Thunderchickens, consisting of high school students from the Utica Community School district.
  • Byting Bulldogs: The Byting Bulldogs are based out of Romeo. The team has 55 student members.
  • AM.ROBOT 4810: The I.AM.ROBOT team has 58 members. It was founded seven years ago at the International Academy of Macomb.

 

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Upcoming event aims to expose young people to careers in technology and manufacturing

Macomb County has long been a manufacturing powerhouse. For close to a century, our region has designed and produced countless products, parts and materials for the auto industry and military – which makes continuing the steady flow of talent into our workforce a top issue for local leaders.

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One major component of producing this next generation workforce involves exposing young people to the variety of careers and opportunities available in the manufacturing and technology sectors. And the upcoming Careers in Manufacturing Expo aims to do just that. The free career event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Macomb Community College South Campus. It will feature a light dinner, an opportunity to interact with area employers and a panel discussion about educational pathways that lead to career success. The panel will include insight from interns all the way to CEOs, all of whom can provide perspective to the public.

“It’s really all about developing career awareness and technology awareness, particularly within the automotive field,” said Joe Petrosky, the dean of the Engineering and Advanced Technology at Macomb Community College. “That evening event has local employers that come in. Students and parents and families can interact with those employers, […] learn more about apprenticeships, learn more about internships (and) the programs available at the college.”

Companies participating in the event include:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles
  • General Motors
  • Magna International (manufacturing)
  • Continental AG (manufacturing)
  • Comau (automation)
  • Siemens (automation)
  • American Axle (auto)
  • Kuka (automation)

All interested parents and students are welcome to attend the expo, where one lucky student attendee will be awarded the special door prize – a professional grade drone!

Again, the event is free, but registration is required here.


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

FIRST Robotics: A student’s perspective

It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. Many of these new roles will be related to STEM, so it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is a program that does just that. Its mission is to inspire young people to become science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs and competitions. According to FIRST, this is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.

Knowing this, Macomb County has begun collaborating with the 16 teams based here. One of our first efforts – a FIRST Robotics open house and panel discussion hosted by students from the International Academy of Macomb and the I.AM.ROBOT First Robotics team on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 from 3:45 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information on the event or to secure your spot, click here.

To get a better understanding as to why this event is important, we invite you to read the following essay written by Magdalena Sawicki, a student from the International Academy of Macomb and a member of the school’s I.AM.Robot FIRST Robotics team.

Before last year, I never had a true passion. I had many hobbies, but nothing that truly made me stop and think, “This is my thing.” Additionally, I always had this mentality that I never truly fit or felt comfortable anywhere, which understandably put a damper on my feelings towards groups and teams. However, that same thinking is what justified the importance of the moment I knew I discovered my passion.

IMG_4805It all began my freshman year when I went to a new high school. The rigor of the International Baccalaureate program was the smallest of my worries compared to the challenges of making new friends and having to reintroduce myself. To be frank, I did not know how I was supposed to paint myself as a unique individual, when I had nothing that set me apart.  The transition was hard and the routine of it all started to make me feel nauseous. Then, like fate had it, an announcement of a robotics meeting played over the speaker. From that moment on, I was under a spell. My weekly meetings turned into daily meetings, sometimes staying at school from 3 p.m. to midnight. It was the first time that I was so wrapped up in doing something that there was no other place I would’ve rather been.

Two years into being on my team, I developed a leadership position and I spontaneously pushed my team into signing up for the All Girls Competition in Bloomfield. It was the first off-season event the team would’ve ever participated in, but I was beyond ready for the challenge. The moment I received the green light, I pushed everything aside besides the competition. Along with preparing myself, I had to prepare the five other girls on the team, expanding my knowledge from just programming to building and electrical. We practiced three times a week and I was confident in our abilities, however, I was still very intimidated by the other teams. So much so, I spent the morning of the competition in the bathroom consoling myself. In the competition queue, fear really hit me. I was trembling and jittery. Luckily, I had a bond with my drive team girls and they put on my favorite music knowing goofy dancing calms me down. Without even realizing it, I was standing at the driver station setting up. My driver saw me tense up again and reminded me of the work I put in to make this possible. We stood in preparation for the match and it was then, when the buzzer went off, that I knew this is my passion. All my nerves disappeared and I went into full focus, winning that match.

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From that moment, every time I’m faced with a tough situation, I swear I hear that starting buzzer. Robotics helped me find my identity, passion and skills like team-work, time-management and most importantly, leadership. The Girls competition became my outlet for later being operator on the actual drive-team, taking my team to worlds, advocating for women in STEM and being the student mentor for my final year of robotics, for not five girls but twenty.

Magdalena Sawicki is a senior from the International Academy of Macomb and has been a member of 4810 I.AM.Robot for four years. She is on the programming, business, outreach and drive teams. Magdalena also holds an extreme passion advocating for women in STEM. Recently, she participated in the Bloomfield All Girls competition as a drive coach and won a $1,000 scholarship through the above essay (5/55 girls).

Popular workshop returns to help startup businesses

Small businesses and startup organizations are an essential part of Michigan’s economy. They keep our cities and towns vibrant by investing in communities and giving work to a significant number of people – over 1.8 million individuals to be exact. That’s more than 49 percent of the state’s private workforce and a reason why there are countless resources available to provide support for the sector.

One resource in particular is back by popular demand. “Starting Up,” a free workshop hosted by the Macomb-OU Incubator at the Velocity Center, is returning for a new session on Tuesday, December 18 from 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. The course is open to the public, including:

  • Individuals who have a high-tech startup
  • Individuals who have an early-stage, growth-based business
  • Individuals who have an innovative idea that they’d like to bring to market

During the workshop, attendees will explore Michigan’s “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” which is designed to help innovators start and/or grow tech-based businesses. They will also hear from John Eaton, the Macomb-OU Incubator client strategist. He will review the wide range of resources the state of Michigan offers – including business incubators, university technology acceleration and commercialization, SmartZones and various support services and funding programs. The end goal of the course – to identify what’s right for every individual’s business.

Those interested in attending can register here: https://hgioxpcxda.formstack.com/forms/starting_up_121818. Make sure to reserve a spot soon. These classes tend to fill up quickly.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

‘Tis the season for Shop Local Macomb! Here’s how your business can get involved.

pexels-photo-929245Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! And if you own a small business, you likely agree. The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity for attracting new customers and boosting sales margins. Which is why the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development (MCPED) is partnering with First State Bank and the Sterling Heights Regional and Macomb County chambers to bring back the Shop Local Macomb campaign. We want to help our more than 1,600 independently owned and operated retailers by encouraging local holiday shopping.

“Shopping local is one of the easiest things we can do to support our independently owned businesses,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “These retailers help us build vibrant cities and towns by attracting visitors and new residents. Which means that spending money at these businesses during the holiday season has an impact far beyond sales figures.”

Shop Local Macomb and its corresponding social media competition will officially launch on November 23. Like last year, this contest will ask individuals to upload photos of their local holiday shopping with the #ShopLocalMacomb hashtag for a chance to win one of five $500 gift cards (donated by First State Bank).

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In the interim, campaign organizers are asking independently owned and operated retail businesses in Macomb County to submit their Shop Local Saturday (November 24) deals and other holiday discounts to a digital portal here: http://bit.ly/ShopLocalMacomb. There is no charge to submit and all information collected will be promoted on MakeMacombYourHome.com and a variety of other mediums, like our interactive holiday shopping map.

Anecdotally, businesses that participated in this manner last year saw an increase in foot traffic on that Saturday.

“We heard from many businesses after the Shop Local Saturday event last year, and those that had the extra promotion through our outlets experienced a greater number of shoppers than they had in years prior,” said Melanie Davis, president of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce. “So submitting your deals and discounts is an easy and free way to spread the word about your business and get new customers.”

Businesses interested in sharing their holiday deals through the free online portal are asked to do so by Friday, November 16. And those that would like to help us promote the Shop Local Macomb campaign can download a flyer here and use the #ShopLocalMacomb campaign hashtag on social media. All told, this extra support can help us make this holiday shopping season in Macomb County the best one yet.

For more information on the Shop Local Macomb campaign, visit http://www.makemacombyourhome.com/shoplocal.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

FIRST Robotics open house to showcase student innovation and imagination

Sprinkled across Macomb County are impressive groups of high school students who are working hard to become STEM leaders and innovators as part of FIRST Robotics. FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded nearly 30 years ago as a mentor-based program and competition. Its mission is to build science, engineering, technology and life skills in young people – work that can help prepare students for the future economy. What does that mean exactly? Well, it is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. And many of those roles will be related to STEM. So it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields. FIRST Robotics is a great platform for that and it’s why nearly 84,000 Michigan high school students participate on local teams.

Here in Macomb County, there are hundreds of FIRST Robotics students and our team count stands at 16. Earlier this year, five of these 16 teams showcased their talents at the FIRST Robotics World Championship. They included:

  • ThunderChickens: Founded 20 years ago, the ThunderChickens are based out of Sterling Heights and the Utica Community Schools. The team, which has more than 100 students, has been to the FIRST Robotics World Championship 17 times, winning the event twice. In 2018, the ThunderChickens were a runner-up.
  • Blue Devils: Based in Richmond, the Blue Devils have 25 student participants. At the close of the 2018 competition, the Blue Devils were announced as a runner-up.
  • Byting Bulldogs: The Byting Bulldogs are based out of Romeo. The team has 55 student members.
  • The Fighting Pi: Formed in 2006 at the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences in Armada, Mich., Fighting Pi is made up of more than 40 students.
  • I. AM.ROBOT 4810 (pictured below): The I.AM.ROBOT team has 58 members. It was founded seven years ago at the International Academy of Macomb.

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Area businesses will have the opportunity to connect with these movers and shakers of tomorrow at a FIRST Robotics open house and panel discussion hosted by students from the International Academy of Macomb and the I.AM.ROBOT First Robotics team on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 from 3:45- 6 p.m. The event will feature representatives from the majority of Macomb County’s 16 teams as well as guest speakers that include Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Michigan Intermediate School District Superintendent Michael DeVault and First Robotics in Michigan President Gail Alpert. Interested individuals are welcome to attend and meet students, experience their innovations and hear from mentors and coaches on why FIRST Robotics is an integral part of fueling our talent pipeline.

For more information on the event or to secure your spot, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/macomb-county-first-robotics-open-house-and-panel-discussion-tickets-51719054083.

Risks and opportunities of USMCA (NAFTA 2.0) to be highlighted at symposium

After more than a year of negotiation, the United States, Mexico and Canada reached a trade deal on September 30, 2018. So – what will the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – USMCA – (NAFTA 2.0) mean for U.S. companies already doing business on the ground with Mexico and Canada?

Butzel Long law firm and the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development will try to answer that question during a free symposium on Thursday, October 25 from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Velocity Collaboration Center – Macomb/ OU Incubator (6633 Eighteen Mile Road, Sterling Heights). The co-sponsored event will feature speakers discussing the risks of, opportunities around and responses to the new trade deal.

“Since the beginning of 2018, we’ve seen an unprecedented flood of new tariffs either threatened or enacted – tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, steel and aluminum tariffs, tariffs on Chinese imports, tariffs on automobiles and automotive components,” said Jim Townsend, attorney and chair of Butzel’s Macomb County Development Team. “We will address how local companies can seize opportunities and minimize threats to their businesses along with key strategies to protect from shifting trade rules.”

Featured presenters include John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. Additionally, Butzel Long attorneys who have expertise in international trade law will offer key updates, including:

  • Les Glick, a co-chair of Butzel Long’s International Trade and Customs Specialty Team. He has extensive experience in the areas of international trade and customs law.
  • Catherine Karol, who concentrates her Butzel Long practice in transactional negotiations, litigation, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures and bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Raul Rangel, a corporate attorney licensed to practice law in New York and in Mexico. Mr. Rangel works closely with other Butzel attorneys to represent organizations doing business in Mexico and the United States in a broad range of industries.
  • Mitch Zajac, who concentrates his Butzel Long practice in the areas of automotive, intellectual property, regulatory and emissions compliance and sports and entertainment law.

If you’re interested in diving into this complex and timely topic, you can RSVP by contacting Nairi Bagdasarian at bagdasarian@butzel.com or 313-225-7012. Please note that reservations are required and seating is limited.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.