Sterling Heights

New robotics center to 'train the next generation'

Plans for a new robotics center in Sterling Heights are progressing, with the goal of opening in 2021.

Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel described the proposed center as a “first of its kind”.

“This will provide a collaborative learning environment for students from all around the county,” Hackel said during his State of the County speech in December. “Students can learn from industry professionals, as well as from one another.”

The center will be housed at the Velocity Collaboration Center on 18 Mile Road, and Sterling Heights Senior Economic Development Adviser Luke Bonner said the county is working to develop a non-profit entity to run it.

The ThunderChickens Robotic TeamPlans include co-sharing and individual work spaces, computers, software and related technologies. Organizers hope to connect students with mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms and support the county’s FIRST robotics teams. Sterling Heights’ ThunderChickens Robotics team, which consists of students from the four main high schools in the Utica Community School District, earned the World Champion title in last year’s FIRST robotics global competition.

Hackel said he hopes the robotics center will build on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs and the existing talent pool in the area. 

“It will become a unique resource for training the next generation of our high-tech workforce,” he said.

The concept for the new robotics hub was submitted by the Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) as a proposal to the Defense Industry Growth Area Grants program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 2018, and was awarded funding last year.

“Ultimately, we hope to bring existing engineering talent from major employers across Southeast Michigan into an environment where new ideas and technologies can be created,” says John Paul Rea, director of MCPED.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at