ROBO-CON is a festival of robotics and STEM learning. The event started in 2014 with FIRST Robotics Team 1684, The Chimeras, to share the thrill of robotics and learning with others, and the work was taken up by Lapeer Strike Zone Team 5460 when the team started in 2015.
Something happens when a kid joins a robotics team. Maybe that kid has always been a good student. Maybe he or she is an average teen caught up in everyday school life. Or maybe we're talking the kind of kid who seems forever doomed to play video games in a parent's basement. Regardless, joining a team generally marks a sudden discovery that learning things like Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and business skills are so much more interesting than anyone would have dreamed.
Talk to any teacher who's up to their elbows in robotics, and you'll hear about how competition becomes motivation, that suddenly students are engaged, that passive learning is a thing of the past.
Since a huge amount of time and effort goes into robotics teams, by 2014 it had become crystal clear that it would be a shame to keep it quiet. And that's how ROBO-CON began, as a burning realization that it was time to make it loud.
In that first year, a handful of people had only a few weeks to pull together an event that would show the community, family, and kids of all ages what a blast robotics and learning can be. It was hoped that the event would draw about 75 people. Instead, more than 300 showed up. Organizers were gratified to hear parents say, "Oh no, we're not leaving. We can't get our son out of here."
In 2015 the festival drew more than 600 people, including guests who drove across the state to participate. By the third year, about 1,000 people were at ROBO-CON, and it was finally coming close to the original vision. In 2017, a committee was form with representatives from two Lapeer FRC high school teams, their alum, and the View Newspaper Group, all planning for an event that included an estimated 1,400 people from all across Michigan and beyond.
We are moving forward with a passion to keep this an awesome, free summer event in Lapeer, Michigan which continues to grow. Not only do we want it to be a blast, but we are committed to make ROBO-CON an experience which inspires others to take what happens here, and let it motivate them to explore the excitement of learning and making, not only over the rest of the summer, but hopefully, for the rest of their lives.
We are truly thrilled at the growing group of supporters who are helping with this goal. Many thanks to our local community and statewide organizations such as the Michigan Science Center, who were part of 2015's Robo-Con lineup, as well as Brick It Up of Clarkston, who joined us last year, as well as last year's panel of Michigan educators who took time out to serve as panelists in a roundtable discussion of how robotics affects students academically, and this year's panel of specialists addressing robotics and economics. A big thank you to the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad, who joined us for the second time this year, and to the awesome groups who contacted us wanting to participate, such as FIRST alum Jared Coke and crew, who created the pedal-powered slot-car racetrack, and Ellen Green and friends, who planned and staffed hands-on STEM activities.
We are starting to plan for ROBO-CON 2018--there are changes ahead as we continue to grow! Feel free to spread the word, by making plans with a friend, by posting a Facebook message here, a Tweet there, by offering to design your own awesome interactive exhibit, by getting your robotics team on board, or by planning to volunteer. Find out how to get involved, and stay tuned...it'll be a blast!
-Elizabeth Lowe, Co-Founder and Chair
"We're not leaving. We can't get our son out of here!"