Nov 08, 2020 by Jim Terpstra

Celebrating STEM Day with FIRST Partnership

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Celebrating STEM Day with FIRST Partnership

November 8 is dedicated as National STEM Day in the United States. STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities help prepare kids to advance in these fields. As a company filled with engineers, it’s no surprise that many Dematic employees are involved with STEM activities outside of the office — particularly with the nonprofit, FIRST.

FIRST teams raise funds, develop a team brand, hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-sized robots to compete in tournaments against like-minded competitors. Each year a new game design is revealed, and the teams start designing and building a robot for the competition.

While some students work on the robot, other students work on fundraising and design promotional materials including videos. They may also work on special projects that the team has decided to support. For example, the Dematic-supported G3 robotics team in Atlanta wanted to make tournaments more friendly to students and spectators with special needs. They organized and setup special “quiet rooms” for spectators and participants who needed a break from the loud and energetic competition environment.

A FIRST team is like a varsity sport in that it is active in-season and off-season. Team members learn new skills, host camps for FIRST LEGO teams, and work on ways to help promote STEM throughout their community.

Support at Dematic runs deep. It began in the late 1990s when Dematic was lead sponsor for a FIRST team from a Grand Rapids public school. Since 2008, Dematic in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin has sponsored teams in the Milwaukee area. Many employees, like Curtis Doane, have been involved in multiple roles. For the past 11 years Chris has mentored students within the organization and judged tournaments. Others have served as inspectors and masters of ceremony for tournaments.

“Mentoring students in high school and doing my part to teach and inspire future Dematic employees and customers in STEM has been a very rewarding. Not to mention a lot of fun,” said Doane. “Even better, seeing the world through the eyes of a student who hasn't learned the word impossible yet has been personally inspiring and a constant reminder to think out of the box.”


Paying It Forward

These volunteer opportunities make a difference and can be a great introduction to Dematic for students. In fact, a current employee used to be a member of a FIRST team that Dematic sponsored. Daniel Copeland, Simulation Consultant, participated on a local team for four years in high school. Through the events, he learned about Dematic, started an internship that eventually turned into a full-time job. Today, Daniel is a volunteer helping the next generation with FIRST.

“The animation experience gained through FIRST directly led to my interest in joining the simulation department,” said Copeland.

Dematic support for FIRST is growing. Employees from several Dematic locations, including Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Atlanta have spent t hours supporting the nonprofit’s work.


Fun, Educational with Real-World Benefits

I have been involved with FIRST for six years. The organization creates a fun, educational environment where students can learn real-world skills to become the next generation of engineers and business leaders. The Dematic partnership with FIRST is a win for the student, a win for Dematic, and a win for the Dematic employees who volunteer.

David Barr, an engineer on the Dematic AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) team, started working with FIRST back in 2005 when his son joined a local team in Holland, Michigan. He continued working with teams even after his son graduated. “If a local team called and asked for help, I’d meet with them and help the students. If an event needed technical support, I’d drive over and help,” said Barr. He has recently moved to the Alabama area and is currently working to help start FIRST Lego teams for schools there.

Solutions Development engineer Matt Brechting was a member of a Grand Rapids team in high school. He is now a mentor for That ONE (Our Next Engineers) Team in the Grand Rapids area. Matt is also a member of the Dematic Community Outreach team and played a key role in organizing the new scholarship program.


And Now a Scholarship Program!

Through its Community Outreach Program, Dematic pledged $50,000 in support of FIRST in 2020 by sponsoring seven teams in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, sponsoring events, and the creating a scholarship program.

Through the FIRST/Dematic Scholarship Program, Dematic is sponsoring three (3) $5,000 scholarships for alumni of FIRST aiming to complete a post-secondary degree or certification. Students can follow this link to apply — applications are due November 30.

We are excited to expand our partnership with FIRST and its alumni, and we are thrilled to Power the Future of Community by investing in continued education for these students!


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