What started as an opportunity to spend more time with his son and help start FIRST Robotics at a local high school quickly turned into a labor of love for Greg Jacobs.
The veteran electrical engineer at Consumers Energy is entering his sixth season volunteering with the FIRST Robotics Team at Bay City Western High School.
“I started in the fall of 2014 when my son Nicholas was a senior, and we had a great time that year,” said Jacobs, who is based at the Karn Generating Complex in Essexville. “He graduated from high school, but I decided to stay. It was just too much fun for me to walk away. I love working on engineering and electronics and this gave me a way to do it outside of work and share it with others.”
Five years later Jacobs commitment is as strong as ever – he donates about 200 to 300 hours of his time a year depending on the number of competitions. And thanks to the company’s VIP grant programs, Team 5603 Rise of the Warrior Bots has received a total of five grants that total more than $2,500.
The money is used mainly for competition fees and parts for the robot. The team also raises money to help with expenses such as hotel, food and other travel needs.
“We started in 2014 with about 15 students,” Jacobs said. “And recently we have had more than 30 students. That’s along with about 10 mentors, coaches and teachers. It makes for a nice full team that I am proud to be a part of.”
Over the last five years, the team has competed at three state and two world competitions.
As for Nicholas, he’s working in a STEM-related field as a result of his FIRST Robotics experience.
“It really helped us bond, and I am thankful for our time together,” Jacobs said. “I am thrilled to be a part of it since it gives students exposure to all the aspects of FIRST Robotics. The structure is very much like a work project. It involves public relations, planning and scheduling, financing, a business model, engineering cycles and interpersonal skills in working within the team and with other teams.”
Jacobs said he plans to stay with the team for many years to come.
“This year I am planning on spending even more volunteer hours with them because we got a great head start in the fall this season,” said Jacobs. “I want to do everything I can to help them be successful. They really have become part of my family.”
Consumers Energy is proud to sponsor FIRST Robotics STEM-related activities that support science, technology, engineering and math. In 2019, Consumers Energy and the Consumers Energy Foundation contributed more than $450,000 to support STEM programs, including FIRST teams at elementary, middle school and high school levels across the state. In addition, several employees and retirees also serve as volunteers and mentors with various teams and events.