Guest post by Steven Ambrose, vice president and Chief Information Officer, DTE Energy

The Miners, the middle school FIRST Tech Challenge team from Charyl Stockwell Preparatory Academy is getting ready to head to the State Finals. The team is excited that we’ve earned our way to compete at the state level, and as a coach and mentor to the team, I am exceptionally proud of them. It’s our first time at this level and the team is eager to compete with the best of the best. Over the past few days we’ve been prepping our scouting sheets and packing our bags to head out on Friday.

We feel great about making it to State Finals in Battle Creek, especially as we didn’t qualify in our first qualifier event in Midland. Although we did place well and made it to the semi-finals, we were eliminated and our fourth place spot didn’t qualify for State level competition.

The team built on that experience, and had a terrific day of competition in the second round in Howell. We were fortunate to be in first place heading into the qualifier eliminations. Alas, we lost our final event in spite of coming close to a world-record score. Fortunately, because of our performance, we were the last team selected out of the Howell event, and find ourselves on the way to State competition.

The state competition in Battle Creek is the biggest event in the state with 72 teams across two divisions. We look forward to a long and exciting weekend of competition and comradery. In addition to the robot competition itself, we’re also excited to show our team spirit as we cheer in the stands. Also the students have great opportunities to talk with the judges about the innovations they’ve applied and the safe practices they maintain.

Regardless of where the robot bits settle in the end, we feel like we’ve already won – we came together as a team, pushed ourselves further than we’ve ever gone before, and competed at new heights and learned along every step of the way.

The DTE Energy Foundation has supported FIRST in Michigan through grants for several years.  FIRST Robotics is a progression of programs in which teams of students work side by side with technical mentors from industry to design, build and program a robot to foster interest in STEM careers.   This weekend, the program for middle school children, called the FIRST Tech Challenge, will hold its state finals in Battle Creek, Michigan.  Students work in teams of about 10 with their volunteer mentor to build a robot that can perform specific tasks during the competition.  To get to the finals, the teams had to participate in a number of qualifying events that took part last fall.  A number of DTE employees volunteer their time to help the students.

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