For the past six months, Ann Kent has been without a car on Saturday mornings.
However, she saw the reason why this weekend at the second annual RoboBots competition in Kirtland, and she was fine with it.
"On Saturdays, he's up at 6:10 a.m. — a 17-year-old — and starts picking up his buddies on the way out to Willoughby to Heisler Tool Company," Kent said of her son, Bryan, a junior at Cleveland Heights High School. "He's going into mechanical engineering, he's very certain."
Bryan spent that time in Willoughby building and preparing for his CHHS Street Sweepers' robot to face off against 23 other school teams at Lakeland Community College. The team suffered an early exit, leaving Bryan and teammate Gabe Wojnarowski to discuss how much they can't wait for the next opportunity to make sparks fly. That comes May 12 at "grudge match" event at Classic Park in Eastlake.
RoboBots organizers are well aware of the competitive fuel the event has produced 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 School, which lasted deep into the tournament. Each team was sponsored by a Northeast Ohio manufacturer, and they likely spent much of this school year preparing their robots for Saturday's collisions.
Despite their will to win and crush any other robot in sight, most students appreciated the event and its build-up for the exposure they received into manufacturing and engineering.
"We're seeing all of the different aspects of engineering, like documentation and how to use different machines," said Alyssa Muttillo, a freshman at Beaumont and part of the five-girl team sponsored by Christopher Tool Co. in Solon.
"It's really cool, I think everyone should do it."
Yvonne Schiffer, an engineering teacher at CHHS, said she was appreciative of sponsor Euclid Heat Treating Co. and Heisler, the Willoughby firm that manufactured all of the metal parts for the CHHS Street Sweepers' robot.
"They gave these kids opportunities and resources they would have never had," she said of Heisler. "Many of them are hiring kids for internships in the summer. Winning is nice, but this is has been a great opportunity."
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."