ThunderChickens is an FRC team, based out of Sterling Heights, Michigan and the Utica Community Schools (UCS) school district. We operate out of space provided by the Van Dyke Ford Transmission plant and are fortunate to have this workspace thanks to our generous sponsor Ford Motor Company.

The ThunderChickens are a veteran team who have been active since 1999. Team 217 started as Team Macomb, but that name only reigned for one year. Royal Fusion then became 217's title. Finally, in 2002, several teams spun off of Team Macomb/Royal Fusion, and 817 temporarily became our new number. We became the ThunderChickens that year in honor of Ford Motor Company, our biggest sponsor. The name was born after Ford's Thunderbird didn't reach its expectations, and their workers jokingly started calling the model the “ThunderChicken". The name stuck after Ford engineer and team mentor Ed Debler brought it up while the team was brainstorming new names. Shortly after, the team was able to reclaim its original number 217.

Every year, we work hard to build on our two-decade legacy. Our team has focused on teaching students to be better leaders, scientists, engineers, programmers, mathematicians, and communicators. We grow as individuals, and this knowledge leaves a lasting impact on the team members and helps the ThunderChickens better the community in profound ways.

In 2009, the ThunderChickens founded Team 2851, Crevolution, our sister team. We now collaborate with Crevolution in various ways, including visiting their build site to practice together and marching with them in the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest parades in the state.

To support other robotics teams, we share our coop with Team 4811, The Majestic Eagles, from Madison Heights, Michigan. Our mentors and students provide them with equipment, materials, and our own wisdom and experience.

We are also incredibly dedicated to volunteer work- it's not all about the robots, after all. The team coordinates multiple volunteer events throughout the year and is constantly searching for more organizations they can support. Each year, the ThunderChickens engage in multiple service projects, including Project Linus, Gleaners Food Bank, and Relay for Life.

Over the years, the ThunderChickens have faced many ups and downs, but we are proud to say that we have pulled through all of it and faced amazing success and consistency. We hope to continue this success in the future and keep making fantastic scientists and amazing people out of our students.

Notable alumni:

  • Ian Hatzilias continued to work with FIRST after his graduation by emceeing different competitions.
  • Jessica DeSelm Calme works as an operations analyst at the National Snow and Ice Center.
  • Dan Swando, holds a position as FIRST Regional Planning Committee Member while holding a mechanical engineering job at Universal Creative.
  • Jenna Ross continued to pursue her STEM based interests by working at General Motors as a seat validation engineer.
  • Wayne Penn, a former CEO, worked with Dean Kamen on his DEKA-DARPA Prosthetic Arm Project.
  • Omar Zrien founded Cross the Road Electronics, which supplies many FIRST teams with robot parts.
  • Christina Li, the creator of the Hello World coding camp, who was featured on Nickelodeon's The Halo Effect in 2016, now works at SpaceX.