Robotics, esports expanded in Confluence

Local sponsors help grow annual Confluence Festival, now at Rosa Parks Circle
Confluence Festival 2023, which takes place September 22-23 at Rosa Parks Circle, has expanded its esports competition. Courtesy photo.

Confluence, a free festival that connects the worlds of art, music, science, and technology through programs and shared experiences, has announced plans to expand its esports and robotics programming. The festival takes place over a two-day period at Rosa Parks Circle, Sept. 22-23.

The Innovation Showcase, presented by Steelcase, will host a Super Smash Bros. tournament, with top collegiate and high school esports teams from across the Midwest competing. Participating schools include University of Michigan, Michigan State University and St. Zavier/Chicago, among others. Teams will compete for bragging rights and custom trophies designed by Kendall College of Art and Design. A free-play area for attendees will be located just off the main stage.

“We are delighted to support Confluence’s Innovation Showcase and the local gaming community,” said Alexis Heinrich, growth markets manager for Steelcase. “We love the collaboration, problem-solving and creativity that brings people together though gaming and we’re happy to provide competitors comfortable, supportive and ergonomic chairs to support their concentration throughout the tournament.”

Robotics parade at the 2022 Confluence Festival. Courtesy photo.

Confluence is also expanding its robotics programming. The Robotics Expo & Parade will be  presented by Holland, Michigan based company, JR Automation. Local middle and high school teams will demonstrate knowledge in the fields of engineering, coding, and computer science with demos throughout the day, and then join together for a robot parade.

“JR Automation is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Robotics Expo,” said JR Automation’s vice president of marketing Chris Dolbow. “As a global leader in advanced automation, we highly value and understand the importance of investing in the next generation of highly skilled talent and providing inspiration for them to achieve great things for themselves and the community.”

JR Automation will have an ABB YuMi articulating robot on display. It is programmed to play Blackjack with participants, so festival attendees can try their luck against this high-tech dealer.

Confluence also includes other major events: a music summit, which will explore the high-tech future of the music industry; a maker expo focused on design and engineering; a “Future Innovators Zone” (a hands-on STEAM area for kids); and digital art installations. Details about all of this year’s programming can be found at

Event sponsors include Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Steelcase, JR Automation, City of Grand Rapids, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Consumers Energy, Xfinity, Technology Council of West

Michigan, Spartan Innovations, Atomic Object, Warner Norcross + Judd, Gentex, Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and New Belgium Brewing. Media partners include Wood TV8, Grand Rapids Magazine and WGVU Public Media.

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