Carmaker Backs Middle and High School Robotics

Carmaker Backs Middle ad High School Robotics 

The American automaker behind Chrysler and Fiat cars is investing bigtime in Michigan middle grade and high school students. The charitable arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC has awarded $226,000 in grants to 57 robotics teams and programs to help students in those schools cover some of the costs of participating in robotics competitions.

The grants range in size from $400 to $4,725 and are intended to cover expenses such as registration fees, parts and materials as well as team apparel associated with the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge programs. Both are run by the organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people in science and technology.

Robotics teams for the older students have six weeks to come together as a team, raise additional funds, design their team brand and build and program their robots to compete in the contests. The younger students focus their efforts on designing, building, programming and learning how to operate their robots for the challenges. Both teams participate in local kickoff events and then move onto to more regional challenges, culminating in FIRST Championships in April.

FCA US employs more than 35,000 people in the state of Michigan, many of whom "give generously of their time and skills to help mentor students and serve as competition coordinators," said Lesley Slavitt, who directs the FCA Foundation, in a statement.

One of those volunteers is Phil Jansen, head of product development for FCA-North America. "The real-world experience that students gain through their participation in FIRST programs is invaluable in preparing students for the future," he said. "We are proud to partner with an organization that taps into such formidable minds and encourages deeper levels of ingenuity."

The foundation also donated to the FIRST Lego League program, whose team members research a real-world problem, such as food safety, and develop their solutions using LEGO MINDSTORMS robots.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.