DTE supported 25 FIRST Robotics Challenge teams this season. While we and all the teams were ready for exciting competitions this springthe season was cut short due to COVID-19 in March, just a couple weeks into competition. 

But while the world hit pause on most activities, our sponsored robotics teams kept busy giving back to their community– from a safe distance. 

The Kinematic Wolves, based out of Cristo Rey High School in Detroit, were ready to compete at the March 13 Detroit District Competition. Their build center closed to robotics teams on March 11th, followed by the postponement (and eventual cancellation) of the FIRST Robotics season.  

As a team, they discussed many options for what to do next. They wanted to advance their CAD skills, but with students learning from home in front of technology all day, they decided to do something physical. The team loved the idea of manufacturing PPE.  

To make it happen, coach Ann McGowan had to gather resources from the school—the 3D printer, hole punch, thermal laminator and supplies. She then dropped off supplies to students homes. Many worked with their families to build the face shields.  

“During our remote meetings, we worked together to locate the files available that would work on our unit and started printing frames,” says McGowan. “We also worked out who was going to do what parts. About that time was when FIRST in Michigan started the 1,000,000 PPE Challenge. Dropping off the first printed frames and the equipment/supplies to produce and assemble the shields happened shortly after the announcement.”   

A team member named Jose was the first one to complete shields, and his whole family worked together assembling the shields. “They support him 100 percent and love the time they get to spend together working on the assembly,” says McGowan.  

Knowing they wanted to do more, the team invested in a second 3D printer. They were also able to borrow a thermal laminator from a supporter. The new equipment enabled the team to increase production from 50 to over 100 frames per week. (Check out their shields on their Instagram page) 


When looking for opportunities to donate the frames, the team considered many in the community. Knowing that our workers were also on the front lines, they reached out to DTE!  

“We appreciate everything that our sponsors do for us in season and we thought that this would be a fantastic way to let them know we’re thinking about them during this time,” says McGowan. 

While DTE appreciated the offer, we knew others in the community needed them more. The Kinematic Wolves have donated face shields to Beaumont Health Systems and the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, among other community groups. They’ve donated 265 pieces of PPE to the community so far. 

Now, looking ahead to an uncertain season, the team is looking at ways to reinforce the frame so they can use shields as an alternative to safety glasses, which are required in the FIRST Robotics competitions. They’re also working on a display to encourage people to wash their hands. 

Kudos to the Kinematic Wolves for taking a difficult situation and using their robotics teamwork skills to give back to the community!