Anthony DeBacker

2015 Thinking Ahead


Anthony DeBacker didn’t have much robotics experience when he joined University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Intelligent Systems Club. As a result, he often felt frustrated by his inability to contribute to the team’s autonomous snowplow design.

Enter Project Maverick. Anthony started and runs the new Intelligent Systems Club training program, which meets weekly in an open-workshop format. Led by experienced club members, individuals work on education-based small robot projects to learn the tricks of the trade. The goal is to build confidence and provide experience for young team members.

The idea seems to be catching on—even during finals week, upwards of 20 students will be tinkering with their Project Maverick assignments.

“What sets Anthony apart from everyone else is the enthusiasm he brings to everything he does, how well he motivates others to achieve their potential and how committed he is to making a difference,” said Nattu Natarajan, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Anthony brings the same enthusiasm to the classroom, serving as a teaching assistant for Engineering 100. There, he helps to make the class more hands-on and works with prospective engineering students, preparing them for the rigors of their programs.

He also has been a passionate supporter of the college’s STEM education outreach activities, assisting with programs that promote engineering and robotics. He was part of a team of students that led a four-week robotics program at Robichaud High School and taught basic programming skills at the annual Maker Faire Detroit at Henry Ford Museum.

As he continues to share his love for engineering and robotics throughout campus and the community, Anthony focuses on building up others.

“Leadership is less about leading others on how to do things, and more about leading others to be leaders,” he said. “Inspire those around you to be proactive. Empower others to explore their skills. And, of course, lead through example by working hard, staying on task and constantly thinking ahead.”