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Microchip Nurtures AZFirst

Raising local talent is a critical business practice for every tech company in need of engineering resources.
Microchip Nurtures AZFirst

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By Junko Yoshida

Promoting “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education” is a worthy cause for every tech company. But how best to foster the cause?

Fortunately, the tech world already has a successful template.

Most people in the technology field have heard of Dean Kamen, an entrepreneur engineer with more than a thousand patents, including inventor of the Segway. He founded the non-profit organization FIRST in 1989.

FIRST, short for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” has gone global, launching numerous competitions that rang from the FIRST Robotics Competition to the FIRST Tech Challenge competitions and the FIRST LEGO League Challenge. FIRST’s explicit mission is to motivate the next generation of science and technology leaders.

As Tip O’Neill once famously said, “All politics is local.” In the tech world, the same principle applies.

But first, it’s important to know that this sentiment goes beyond public relations.

Raising local talent is a critical business practice for every tech company in need of engineering resources and committed to hiring the best talent money can buy, from all over the world. But going local and getting to know the community is just as critical. A durable enterprise recognizes from Day One the value of giving back to the community in which it operates.

To that end in 2003, Steven Sanghi, executive chairman, Microchip Technology Inc., founded AZFirst, Arizona’s statewide FIRST competition. Microchip has been the organizing sponsor ever since.

AZ First Robotics 2024 begins Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (Source: Microchip)

Why Arizona?

Arizona, Microchip’s home, is “quickly becoming a key location for high-tech and semiconductor growth,” according to a spokesperson. “Our goal is to offer exciting programs to young people, to facilitate an increase in this STEM-focused workforce. Expanding access to programs gives students more opportunities in STEM careers after their education.”

In Microchip’s view, “Expanding access to programs gives students more opportunities in STEM careers after their education. AZFirst provides an avenue to FIRST Robotics programs in Arizona,”

Further, AZFirst offers financial assistance for activities and learning experiences to high school, college and graduate students pursuing careers in STEM fields. “As the landscape of programs changes, we’ll adjust our efforts to continue to support new programs as part of the AZFirst mission,” the company added.

For Microchip, this isn’t just about showing the money. The company is committed to mentoring. Employee teams volunteer at events and Microchip also donates parts.

The company has already seen the fruits of its involvement. Several AZFirst students are Microchip employees who volunteer at events, serving a variety of supervisory roles.

Microchip’s leadership, including Sanghi, Ganesh Moorthy, and Rich Simoncic, have been enthusiastic supporters of FIRST programs and Arizona students.

In 2003 when Microchip became the organizing sponsor, the company introduced the Steve Sanghi Scholarship to support Arizona students interested in studying engineering, science, and mathematics. To date, 36 Arizona students have received scholarships.

In 2022, the Ganesh and Hema Moorthy Foundation added an additional two scholarships, bringing the annual total to four. The Simoncic Opportunities for Arts and Robotics sponsors the championship registration fee for rookie teams that advance from an Arizona event. 

The 2024 AZFirst Arizona Valley Regional event begins on March 13th.

Junko Yoshida is the editor in chief of The Ojo-Yoshida Report. She can be reached at

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