Attn. Michigan Teams: $2,000,000 FIRST Pledge Cancelled

**edit: **see this post for updates.

I received the following e-mail this morning:


This is an S.O.S. We need your help, and we need it NOW. As you may remember, Governor Granholm pledged $2 million to help start a FIRST Robotics team at each and every high school in Michigan that doesn’t currently have one. As promised, the $2 million was put into the state budget, but recently both the Senate and the House of Representatives removed it. We have a very short window of time to convince them to it put back.

Please forward this email to your team and ask everyone involved (students, mentors, teachers) along with the school principals, sponsors and parents to take two minutes TODAY to email the letter below to members of the legislature who sit on the senate and house education committees, as well as the senators and representatives from your district. We want our voice to be heard, and to be heard loudly.

I have made the process as easy as possible. All you have to do is:

  1. copy and paste the short letter below into an email
  2. copy and paste the long string of emails addresses for the state and house
    education committee members onto the “send to” line
  3. pull the email address of your state legislators from the list I have provided
    and add it to the “send to” list from #2 above. If you don’t see your legislators on there, feel free to go to the following websites to look them up:

House of Representatives:

Be sure to sign (type) your name, and include your address and the name of your school, if applicable. It is important for the legislators to see you are from their district.

I want our state legislators to be INUNDATED with letters so it will be clear to
them, whether Republican or Democrat, they cannot afford to turn their backs on this fabulous program. Phone numbers have been provided as well if you would like to call, in addition to emailing them.

I am counting on you to help make Michigan the strongest FIRST state in the nation. With $2,000,000 dedicated to creating new FIRST teams, we can easily do this.

Best Regards,
Gail Alpert*

Send To: [copy and paste this list of the education committee members in the “send to”] [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] , [email protected], [email protected] , [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] , [email protected] , [email protected] , [email protected] , [email protected], [email protected] , [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] , [add your legislators email addresses here]

Dear Legislators from my District:
I am writing this letter to ask that you please reinstate Sec 99 © of the State School Aid Act which was removed by the Senate and the House. The FIRST Robotics program is vital to the growth of the future technological workforce in Michigan.

Currently 25% of our high schools participate in the program. Reinstatement of Sec 99 © will encourage students from the other 75% of high schools in Michigan to pursue a career related to engineering, science and technology.

[COPY AND PASTE INTO BODY OF EMAIL-add comments here if you wish or leave as is.]

Best Regards,
[your name]
[your home address]
[your school name, if applicable]

I’ve sent it along. Hopefully we can make a difference.

Like wise. My wife and I both fired off emails.

Got it forwarded from our team server, already sent my email

For those who missed it the first time around, here’s an article I found the other day that discusses Granholm’s proposal:

Source: US Fed News Service, Including US State News. Washington, D.C.

Date: Mar 10, 2006.

Contact: Heidi Watson, 517/335-6397

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm today said she wants the state of Michigan to expand funding for high school robotics competitions to promote science and technology in the classroom. Granholm’s plan is designed to increase the number of schools participating in robotics competitions and, ultimately, to have a robotics team in every Michigan high school. The Governor made her announcement while attending the FIRST Robotics Great Lakes Regional Competition at Eastern Michigan University. “We must engage students in the study of science and technology so they have the tools they need to succeed in school and the 21st century workplace,” Granholm said. “Robotics competition combines the excitement of sport with science and technology and is important in helping attract students to pursue these subjects in the classroom.”

Under the Governor’s 2007 budget proposal, the state would provide $2 million in School Aid Funds for grants to high schools to participate in FIRST Robotics Competitions. The grants would be matched equally by the local districts. “This announcement from Governor Granholm is recognition that FIRST Robotics is on the right track,” said Francois Castaing, member of the FIRST Board of Directors. “For the last few years, Michigan has been paving the way for other states to see the benefits of FIRST Robotics, and this new funding and commitment from the Governor helps make Michigan a beacon others can look to. I believe the positive impact to FIRST will go well beyond our state.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a multinational, non-profit organization that aspires to transform culture, making science, math, engineering, and technology as cool for kids as sports are today. It was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the SEGWAY. FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with science and technology to help high school students discover rewarding career opportunities in engineering or technological research. Remote controlled robots, piloted by students, go head-to-head in short ball games, battling to earn points during a two-minute round.

The program is supported by more than 215 Michigan businesses, including DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors, along with Toyota Technical Center, U.S.A. In 2006, the competition will reach more than 28,000 high-school students on over 1,125 teams in 33 regional events across the globe. Michigan will host three regional competitions, more than any other state. Approximately 2,500 Michigan students will participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition this year. Michigan teams have been part of the winning national championship alliance four consecutive years (2002-05). More than $8 million in college scholarships are available nationwide to FIRST participants. Michigan universities and colleges that are FIRST scholarship partners for 2006 include: College for Creative Studies, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Henry Ford Community College, Kettering University, Lake Superior State University, Lawrence Technological University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, and Wayne State University. The state’s FIRST Robotics grant program would be administered by the Department of Education in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

Here’s my letter that I sent off. I hope it helps!

Dear Legislators from my District:

I am an engineer at Visteon Corporation and mentor for the FIRST robotics team from the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park. I feel very strongly that FIRST Robotics is making a difference in the future success of our state and our country.

I am giving back to my community because there was no program like this when I was in high school. It is a tremendous opportunity for our children to learn about science and technology. I became an engineer because I was inspired by my father who was an engineer at Ford and because he encouraged me to learn about ‘how things work’ and ‘why is it made that way?’. Many children today may want to learn these things but do not have the opportunity.

I believe that two things are happening simultaneously that are challenging the ability for the people of United States of America to remain the innovators of technology in the world. First, children are inundated constantly by television, the Internet, and media that the greatest role models in life are sports stars and celebrities and becoming one of these should be their goal. Second, the technology in world around us is constantly evolving and becoming more complex even as it improves our quality of life. The FIRST Robotics program addresses both of these issues.

Today’s children need to be able to not only use technology but they also need to understand how it works. The students that get involved in FIRST Robotics and similar programs can actually answer the question that all science and math students face at some time, “What good is learning this? When am I ever going to use this stuff anyway?” And they get these answers while they are still in high school. Critical thinking and problem solving are not classes taught in school, they can only be learned by applying knowledge. The students that I work on my FIRST team genuinely look up to me. They are learning concepts and applying knowledge that I was only first exposed to in upper level college courses. They see that a career in engineering is rewarding and being called a ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ can be a compliment!

Please reconsider reinstating Sec 99 © of the State School Aid Act. As you are no doubt aware many companies in Michigan are struggling to stay afloat. Many times support of these valuable programs is one of the first items cut because in the companies’ budget it is ‘low-hanging fruit’. This state funding would be taxpayer money that would be very well spent. Please do the right thing to keep our children ahead of the curve.

Patrick Murphy
Product Design Engineer, Visteon Corporation
Mentor, Lighting Robotics, Team #862 - Plymouth-Canton High Schools

That’s rediculous to pull that out of the budget. In terms of government spending, 2 million is pocket change. They recently spent that on one artificial football field at one local high school here. And I’m willing to bet it won’t even last. They are already concerned about cars driving on it, lawn chairs sitting on it, and drinks being held over it. Real grass would never complain about that. And they go and spend 2 million dollars on this thing.

The crazy thing is that you could double the size/impact of FIRST (20,000 more students) for only like 7 million dollars ($6,000 grant to ~1150 teams). And they spend just about 2 million on a single football field. Pathetic.

Thats ridiculous, something like this is atrocious and shouldn’t be stood for, I’m not sure how many people from Michigan are actively on CD, but I’m sure there are enough that if all of them sent emails, they would have to take notice.

If any of you have the time, especially if you are over 18/a registered voter, give their office a call. Or, convince your parents, if you are able to. You won’t reach them, but someone in the office should take your message. I’d think that 10 well-composed, independent phone calls over a two-day period will turn a few more heads than form emails. But if you can’t, emails will be better than nothing.

Possible useful things to mention:

  1. If you voted for them, say so.
  2. State the legislation you want them to support.
  3. Why it’s important to you and the people (ie voters) you know (your parents?), your community.
  4. If you have local sponsors, mention who supports your team, and why.
  5. A few brief words about the potential benefits (show that you have some understanding about the bill).
  6. Thank them for their time.

Its on our website. I have already sent my respectable reps an e-mail. We really need to send it like its Spam, and I mean REALLY! :wink:

Anyone contact Dean Kamen about this yet?
I talked to him over at Nats and he commented how Michigan was a powerhouse and the possible $2 million. I think he needs to get a hold of the legislature there and give them a few words. :cool:


For state/local government, $2 million is a lot of money. Local governments get by on what they can, while the federal government not so much.

Plus, what would you rather campaign on, getting the budget in with tax cuts, in with no tax cuts, or in but over? If that $2 million went to balancing the budget or tax cuts, that’s money people will see. People don’t get “FIRST” and see it’s benefits, and most people now want to see instantaneous results, which such headlines as tax cuts and balancing the budget offers.

I’m not defending this at all, I wan $4 million in the budget for FIRST in EVERY state spending bill, but assumptions and hasty comparisons won’t help anyone. Football field pay for themselves with tickets and concessions, robots don’t.

As much as I hate to be the one to play devil’s advocate, I’m going to.

Those of you who live in Michigan know what the economy is here right now. My father works for GM. I worry every day that when he goes to work, he won’t have a job when he comes home. And we aren’t the only family living that way. People with 30 years at the same place are getting fired because there’s no money.

And we want to put 2 million into robotics teams? Seems a little bit like a trivial matter to me, when there are so many businesses going down the tubes.

Anyone who knows me, or has read my stuff on CD knows how passionate I am about this program, how much I’ve sacrificed. But in this case, I’m saying no. The house and senate made a choice. I hope that they use the money that would have been used for FIRST to revive these businesses so that we don’t have to worry anymore about whether or not we will have a job. Jobs mean money, healthcare and a way of life. Right now, in this state, none of that is safe, no matter how many years you’ve had with a company, how much education you have or how respectable a company you work for. Frankly, I think money for robotics teams should not be at the top of the money list. We don’t need future planning, we need the solve the problems now.

I understand your POV, but its a bit too late when Granholm was at GLR and announced to everyone there that she would put $2 million in the budget.

Not to be biased or anywhere near negative, but that’s just me. Politicians should not announce one thing and then allow another.

And as far as people being fired, I know how it feels to fear it happening. I am quite frankly worried about my dad, who works at a Public Radio Station which is loosing money like crazy. Just today they were told they have to cut 10% of their budget. Hopefully my dad can retire before they fire. So I understand your situation completely.

Just remember, as Red always says on the Red and Green Show, “We are all in this together.”


Hey Joe, I don’t mean to fire back, but FIRST is an investment in the future. It will not and doesn’t pay off immedietly like a Tax Cut does, but in the long run it will make money. Listen to some of the Key Note speeches they have at regionals and in Atlanta, what FIRST provides to students is an opportunity to look at career paths that they wouldn’t of considered otherwise.

I don’t mean to be harsh to you Beth, I know how much you put into FIRST, but it is exactly that line of reasoning that has GM/Delphi and the rest of the Detroit auto industry in the situation it is currently in. Because of our situation we MUST invest in FIRST. It is the only program I can see that is putting the focus we need on innovation.

Though I completely agree that the grant is great for FIRST and Michigan, that FIRST is the future, and that it was a bit rotten to pull out on the deal after seemingly being committed, there are certain truths about politics.

FIRST is a theoretical investment. Yes I have seen the numbers, and I have seen that FIRST actually does send more kids to college, but there is no guarantee for politicians or taxpayers that those kids will go on to make back that money in Michigan, or even in America! Politics is very much a today kind of business, and voters footing the bill (mainstream America) are much more content seeing a concrete, current investment of their money, especially when there are other pressing budget issues.

That is why budgets are usually spent in their entirety, with virtually no state savings. People want to only give as much of their money to a fickle government as they have to in order to get along at the moment.
So budgets are tight, and the most pressing issues get paid for. As a few people have brought up, the economic condition in Michigan is not wonderful right now, and likely, thats where the FIRST money has evaporated to. Now, with more people worried about their current lives rather than the impending future, FIRST must be pushed under the table. Unfortunate, but perhaps necessary.

The best thing to do is just what Katie suggested. Communicate with lawmakers that FIRST is a vital and worthy investment. Perhaps Michigan should try to fund less teams at first, like half or a quarter of the remaining schools in Michigan. If anything, FIRST’s infrastructure would be better off. Then move into bigger and better things.


Oh I know Conor, but to most people, this is spending $2 million on Battlebots instead of extra money in their pocket/school. I agree, it’s a great investment, but we have to look at this through different eyes to see why they would can something like this.

Under the Governor’s 2007 budget proposal, the state would provide $2 million in School Aid Funds for grants to high schools to participate in FIRST Robotics Competitions. The grants would be matched equally by the local districts.
I loved the idea that your governor would be so supportive of FIRST. But given the reality of Michigan’s current economic situation, I’m not surprised this would be cut. And if it were approved in the budget, just where would the local school districts come up with the funding to equally match the state grants?

I understand and respect your point of view on this matter, however, I feel that FIRST is a worthwhile endeavor within our education system. And its just that which brings me to this: The $2 million is already within the education budget - what they are deciding is how to allocate and make use of these funds. No choices on how to pull money from thin air, or how to sort the general funds - this $2 million is for education.

Yes, I can see it from the eyes of the Michigan business leaders – our economy is in a slump, with seemingly no way to turn out of our dead end. Manufacturing has become a precarious field in these days. It is imperative to find a method to revive the economy and the grow new jobs.

Speaking of our future, winter comes in just 6 months:
CHOICE: Fill those potholes every Michigan winter, or find a better way to build a road

Beth, your last line is one I don’t agree with. How can we solve today’s problems without planning out the future?

I can fill a pothole every week in winter, each time wondering why I do this continually. Someday, someone will do this job cheaper than me, or hell- someone might just build a robot to do it for me. If we don’t keep minds interested in engineering, interested in science, interested in technology, we risk staying the course- a path the economy is on right now.

Look at where we are with the gas crunch- these technology programs for alternative fuel sources took some time to develop after the 70s, and are still being worked on today. What will happen to manufacturing jobs if nothing changes in the work and the same labor is available elsewhere for less? How can we make our labor more valuable, more advanced? Without development into the future, without future plans for what we will do, we might as well stagnate where we stand.

Ford, GM, DCX and other companies 15 years worth of investments in FIRST have helped to show a couple hundred thousands of students the potential in engineering- not just manufacturing, but newer fields in electronics, computer science, and others.

It’s still a draft, their choice is not final yet. The message we are sending them must be loud – FIRST is our life, an educational tool which has developed our passions for engineering and new technologies. It is a marvelous tool.

I too have sacrificed for this program, yet it has benefited me in countless ways. I’m voicing my opinion to them, sharing with our representatives and senators the full potential of FIRST.

Alex Golec