ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – A new event at last year’s U.P. State Fair is returning for 2023, and organizers say it will be even bigger and better.
Robot Fair Play made its debut at the 2022 fair, giving high school FIRST Robotics teams a chance to keep competing and practicing their skills during the summer.
“After the pandemic, our U.P. robotics teams were looking to do more events, and we really don’t have anything in the U.P. for that,” said event coordinator Denise Messina. “We decided to go big!”
Starting with just eight teams last summer, 19 teams have registered so far for this year’s event. All corners of the Upper Peninsula will be represented.
“It’s just kind of amazing how much its grown,” Denise said. “It’s just fantastic.”
She says Robot Fair Play is excited to expand activities beyond the high school competition this year.
“We’ve added this year a tent that will let the younger fair-going crew actually drive robots,” said Denise. “Our middle schoolers will teach them how to drive their robot, they will be able to operate it.”
Devin Messina, who recently graduated from Gladstone High School and competed in robotics competitions with the BraveBots, is co-coordinating Robot Fair Play. She is looking forward to mentoring newcomers to robotics.
“It’s really helped me build my confidence, kind of figure out where I want to be in my life,” Devin said. “I do think it helps a lot of younger kids grow, get out of their shell, travel places, and learn a lot of life skills that you probably wouldn’t have gotten from a classroom.”
Denise says it takes a lot of work to construct the playing area. In addition to event sponsor EMP, Robot Fair Play is looking for more local sponsors to help with the funds and materials needed to keep up with the growing event.
“Damages happen during the game, so we need to re-enforce our shield this year,” said Denise. “We are looking for LEXAN preferrably, but Plexiglas will work for us.
We need 180 feet to surround our field, about 20 inches high. If anybody had those COVID shields and you have these big panels laying around, we’d love for you to donate those to us.”
Denise and Devin hope the community will come together to support student robotics in the U.P.
“We build these robots for months, and we put in hundreds of hours to do this,” Devin said. “To be able to have extra time to actually show off the robots, it’s an awesome opportunity for everybody.”
Robot Fair Play will take place August 15 – 20 at the U.P. State Fair, across from the RRN building.