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Mentor Students, Businesses Combine Forces at RoboBots

Nearly half of the 24 teams who competed Saturday were sponsored by Mentor manufacturers.

Kenny Neely had little to say Saturday about RoboBots, the event he had just participated in at Lakeland Community College.

Instead, the senior shifted his focus to a May 12 grudge match in which his team of robot creators will strive for a better showing. An early exit from a tournament like the 24-team RoboBots can do that to you.

"We'll start working again, rebuilding, looking at our flaws and how we can get better," Neely said of his team's "Wildcard" robot that bowed out of the competition early because of various electrical issues.

RoboBots organizers are well aware of the competitive fuel the event sparked within area schools. In just its second year, RoboBots has grown from 10 teams mostly from Lake County, to including two dozen stalwarts, like Beaumont High School, which lasted deep into the tournament. Each team is sponsored by a Northeast Ohio manufacturer, and they likely spent much of this school year preparing their robots for Saturday's collisions. Win or lose, the visual manifestation of that preparation is most rewarding for students like Jacob Pell.

"Seeing your bot come to life with all the hard work you've done (is the best part)," said Jacob, a junior at Mentor who attends a welding program at Willoughby-Eastlake Technical Center. "I like everything about it, the carnage."

The program was presented by Lakeland, Auburn Career Center and the Alliance for Working Together, a consortium of area manufacturers who hope students become as excited about a future in manufacturing as they were about Saturday's series of tilts. As much as Alyson Scott, event co-chair and chief financial officer at Fredon Corp., enjoys packing Lakeland for hours of metal clanging, she and other organizers remain enthused by the stories they hear as a result of RoboBots.

"I've heard of team members getting jobs," Scott said. "One team member went to (The Ohio State University) with his mom to look at the lab there. He was naming all of the equipment, and she was shocked.

"That's the dream. It excites and inspires the people working at the company sponsors because they get to work with the kids, who are excited."

sponsored a team from Perry High School. The other Mentor firms that sponsored teams were: U.S. Endoscopy, , , Roll-Kraft, Avery Dennison, and , which sponsored the Mentor High School team.

The grudge match will be held May 12 during Science Day at Classic Park. Kenny Neely has already crafted a mantra for that day.

"May 12, let's try it again," he said.

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