State recognizes H-PT Schools as one of area’s robotics leaders

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Melody Doig, coach of the Houghton High School FIRST Robotics team, speaks to the Houghton-Portage Township Schools Board Monday about the state’s recognition of the district for being one of 44 in Michigan with all four FIRST programs.

HOUGHTON — Only 44 districts in Michigan have all four programs within For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics, in which students build robots to compete in challenges. Only four of them are in the Upper Peninsula.

The first in the U.P. was Houghton-Portage Township Schools. Melody Doig, coach of the Houghton High School team, presented a certificate of recognition given by Snyder at the state championships to the Houghton board at its meeting Monday night.

“I’d like to see it somewhere in a place of prominence to show all the non-robot team members in these schools that there’s something really cool to do here,” she said.

Doig also serves as Western U.P. coordinator for FIRST in Michigan, the state’s governing body for FIRST Robotics. About 500 school districts in Michigan participate in the program, Doig said, which includes the FIRST Tech Challenge for middle school and FIRST Lego League for elementary and FIRST Lego League Jr. for lower elementary levels.

“We want to have access for every student in the state who wants to be on a robotics team to be able to be on a robotics team,” she said. “Part of those goals are to get a team in every high school and to get the other programs into every district.”

The Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw also has all four programs. There are also programs at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School and Hancock High School.

State grants for FIRST teams instituted during Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration have grown to include all four programs, Doig said.

Houghton’s FIRST program will launch a recruitment program for new coaches later this week.

“We’ve got students aging out of the programs and parents that want to age out with them,” Doig said.

Board President Buck Foltz said the certificate will be prominently displayed.

“It’s been a pride and joy of this district for a number of years, and it’s only gotten stronger,” he said.