In most competitions, such as athletics, Detroit high schools are rivals. But at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp. (DHDC), students from various Detroit high schools gather as family for robotics.
Since 2001, the DHDC has been a home to many. Founded by Angela Reyes, the center had an initial goal of reducing violence within the community. Almost 20 years later, DHDC has held many programs to help the community, ranging from educational programs to family services.
One of the main programs run by DHDC started six years ago: the international For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition (FRC) program. DHDC focuses on robotics at the high school level, but students can participate in FIRST programs starting as early as kindergarten.
FIRST requires teams to build a robot for competitions involving game challenges at each event. Teams can compete up to an international level, and this year the FIRST championship will be in Detroit at the TCF Center.
FIRST Robotics is about more than just building the best, fastest, or nicest robot. The program has a mission of inspiring young leaders and innovators in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) fields. At the DHDC, over 60 professional mentors from companies like General Motors, Detroit Edison, and Ford Motor Company take part in helping students get exposure to science, technology, engineering, and business skills through FIRST. Over 190 Students share their ideas, creations, and solutions to constructively, design, and create their robot.
The center holds 12 FRC teams and has continued to bring back alumni, like Western High graduate Christian Gutierez, a former FIRST competitor who has been here since the beginning of the program. “Learning to build a robot in six weeks was fun,” said Gutierez. “It is a place where you can come learn things that you don’t get taught at school.”
Luis Gutierrez, a senior at Detroit Cristo Rey, joined to increase his knowledge base.
“I saw an opportunity to become immersed in a world of STEAM and the chance to gain knowledge about the fundamentals of engineering and business,” said Gutierrez. “They have molded me into the person I am today.”
Ann McGowan, Detroit Cristo Rey science teacher, is the lead coach of the robotics program at Cristo Rey, which is called the Kinematic Wolves 5577. According to McGowan, FIRST robotics has numerous benefits for students.
“It is the total package,” said McGowan. “As a science teacher, I am constantly looking for opportunities for students to be hands on with the content. The robotics program provides that platform for the students to find success in STEAM fields.”
DHDC has created a place for students to learn and polish many different skill sets for potential job opportunities. From marketing, engineering, business, programming, electrical, safety, and design, there is something for everyone to learn.