Help grow Macomb Robotics Collaboration Center at kickoff event at NAIAS

Macomb County, together with Steven Arwood of Public Sector Consultants, will announce plans for a Macomb Robotics Collaboration Center during Industry Preview at the North American Auto Show.

During a lunchtime event on Wednesday, Jan. 16 in Macomb County’s hospitality suite, representatives from the county and Arwood, the former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation who is spearheading this project on behalf of Public Sector Consultants, will outline the studies that support the need for this center, the future vision for the project, and the many benefits of its development.

“There is a high degree of enthusiasm, both in Macomb County and, frankly, other places in the state to create this center,” says Arwood.

The center will be year-round collaboration space for robotics and STEM learning for the K-12 community, and a place for students to engage with industry mentors and corporate sponsors to boost student interest and develop a strong talent pipeline specifically in robotics, which is directly related to the near-future mobility ecosystem.

With a target opening date and initial programming slated as early as 2019, the rollout event will engage major stakeholders in automotive, aeronautics, and defense industries and lay a foundation of the vision, says Vicky Rad, deputy director in planning and economic development for Macomb County.

Through grant funding from the Michigan Defense Center, Macomb County engaged Public Sector Consultants to develop an action plan and a budget. The center is projected to cost about $1 million per year to run, says Arwood.

A current plan repurposes existing space at the Velocity Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights. “Here we can host programming and workshops in the afternoons and evenings, and on Saturdays,” says Rad. “We anticipate cross-functionality, with businesses working with students and an entrepreneurial or commercial focus as well.” Four acres of outdoor space at Velocity could provide ample space for testing robotic devices.

The center’s concept is fueled by the success of FIRST Robotics in Michigan, an international team-based extracurricular robotics program that engages students from early elementary through high school, culminating in competitions that resemble high-stakes sporting events. Detroit is currently host city for one international competition. The first event of the two-year commitment was held at Cobo Center in April, 2018, and drew thousands of competitors and spectators to the city. Macomb County had 16 FIRST high school teams in 2018, and has since added four more, says Rad.

“There is a team element that this program has that allows young people to work with business and employer mentors and sponsors, to develop their own business and marketing plans,” says Arwood. “It allows for complete exposure not only to the world of work, but the world of teamwork and business. It wraps it all together so everyone is engaged and excited.”

While the center will not be limited to FIRST activities, it will mirror the concept of engaging and connecting students to sponsors and mentors. “The more employer mentors we can get, the more we are exposing the kids to the employers and the employers to the kids,” says Arwood. “There is a core economic development function for Macomb County in how do we continue to resolve talent issues when we have the opportunity to promote and help kids find jobs in Macomb County.”

A key reason for Macomb County’s engagement in the center’s development is its commitment to fueling a talent pipeline to the ever-growing tech-based industry. “This is a very exciting time for the county. We are driving this effort forward with strong partnerships with the Macomb Intermediate School District and Macomb Community College, plus the City of Sterling Heights,” says Rad.

“Macomb County is interesting because it’s such a highly vibrant county, not just for robotics, but for defense and automotive and machine tool shops, and engineering firms. There is a wealth of activity going on here,” says Arwood. “It’s a smart strategy for Macomb County. You want to be relevant to your employers, and to their talent needs.”

Now, the Macomb Robotics Collaboration Center is seeking business partners, and will be establishing a board of directors and an advisory board to lay the foundation of student programming about modern manufacturing and robotics.

Interested in shaping the future of the Macomb Robotics Collaboration Center? Click to register to attend the kickoff event during Industry Preview at the North American International Auto Show on January 16, 2019. 

Photo courtesy of FIRST Robotics.
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