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When I first joined FIRST Robotics in 2007, I remember sitting with hundreds of other students watching the live stream introducing that year’s competition.

That was the first time I saw Dean Kamen, a co-founder and visionary of FIRST, as he discussed how and why he started the now worldwide organization.

He instantly became my role model.

His vision to enable the next generation of students with a foundation and understanding of science and technology aligned with my life’s goal to make the world a better place, especially in Detroit, where I was born, raised and continue to live.

Through my FIRST robotics journey — first as a student, then leveraging it into a full-time job, and now as the founder and mentor of a new team in Detroit — I’ve witnessed firsthand how Kamen and co-founder Woodie Flowers positively impact the world.

Robotics, and my involvement in it, have greatly impacted the trajectory of my life.

It came full circle this recently when, at the FIRST Robotics state championship in Saginaw, I was able to share my story in person with Kamen and Gov. Rick Snyder. DTE Energy, where I work, was the title sponsor of the event, and because of that, I had a chance to talk to others about how much FIRST robotics means to me.

Each year, I — along with thousands of other students, volunteers and parents throughout the world — dedicate countless hours to robotics. Our charge: to build a robot that can accomplish a given task. Our goal: to instill in a new generation of students valuable life lessons learned in a unique, challenging and fun manner.

Believe me, it works.

As I participated in the championships in Saginaw this past weekend, surrounded by colleagues who were also volunteers, I realized how proud I am to be an employee at DTE Energy and a member of the FIRST robotics community.

And, the season is about to get even more fun. Starting Wednesday, the FIRST Robotics World Championship is coming to Detroit’s Cobo Center and Ford Field. While my team didn’t make it to that competition, I plan to be there, working as a volunteer.

I encourage you to join me and experience this amazing event for yourself.

Photo Credit: rawpixel.com