Sterling Heights

Macomb students show off STEM skills with robot battles

Senior student Emma Fidler, 17, believes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities can be just as much fun as they are schoolwork. She is the CEO of the “Thunderchickens”, a robotics team at the Utica Center for Math, Science, and Technology, and will be one of the students pitting their robotic skills against each other this weekend.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics events challenge student teams to raise funds, design a brand and program industrial-size robots that play difficult field games against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.


Fidler and her peers will put their work on display at an open house and panel discussion on November 19 at the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD). The event, organized by Macomb County, MISD and the International Academy of Macomb, will showcase robotics' role in building a strong STEM workforce for the future.

“It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist,” says Vicky Rad, deputy director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development.


“And many of those roles will be related to STEM. So it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields and FIRST Robotics is a great platform for that.”

Fidler didn't discover robotics until the 10th grade, despite always enjoying math and engineering. She instantly fell in love with the field.

“I love how the robot serves as a mechanism to solve a complex problem," Fidler says.


"Each system on the robot functions together like the organ systems of the human body. It's fascinating to learn how to combine those systems through teamwork and creative engineering.”

With an eye on a career in astrophysics, Fidler says activities like this one provide important challenges for the growing number of students taking an interest in technology and innovation.


“It’s like exercise for your brain,” she says.

The public event will feature a panel discussion and remarks from Macomb County executive Mark A. Hackel, MISD superintendent Michael DeVault and FIRST Robotics in Michigan president Gail Alpert. Business and manufacturing leaders are encouraged to attend and registration is required through this link.

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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