As MHacks drew to a close Sunday and students put the final touches on their projects, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was on hand to tour the event, meet some of its participants and see the work they had created.
Among the highlights of Snyder’s tour were multiple project demonstrations of new applications for the Oculus Rift virtual-reality technology, various mobile apps, a robotic arm and software that analyzes the mood in speeches — including Snyder’s own State of the State address from last January.
Snyder said he was impressed with how the participants produced “true innovation in a very short period of time” and appreciated the team approach students took in building their projects.
Leaders of MPowered Entrepreneurship, one of the student groups that helped organize the event, guided the governor around the expo — which drew students from across the nation. Engineering junior Diego Calvo, MPowered president, said he enjoyed accompanying Snyder on his tour.
“It was really exciting to have the state government support behind us,” Calvo said. “I don’t think any other major hackathon has had that support before. It’s nice to know that all of Michigan is behind it.”
Over the course of his term as governor, Snyder has emphasized the importance of STEM education and its potential to help grow the economy, and he has been a supporter of extracurricular events like MHacks that allow students to apply their classroom knowledge to build things of their own.
“We really need to figure out how to highlight (events like) this and package it to the general public so they can see how important this is and how we can put more resources towards it,” he said.
Sunday was not Snyder’s first event at a STEM-related event at the University. In 2013, Snyder delivered the keynote address at the University’s Robotics Day, which was sponsored by FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. This past June, he hosted the winners of the state’s high school robotics competition held by FIRST as he signed his education budget for fiscal year 2015
The $15.8 billion education budget for next year includes $2 million in grants for the robotics program, but the Governor hopes that STEM and its related subfields can become an even more prominent part of K-12 and higher education in the state.
“(STEM education) hits all those attributes about innovation, teamwork, collaboration and really could lead to great businesses and long term relationships,” he said.