There is life in the machinery for John Leonard.
The SVSU laboratory support coordinator has enjoyed working with electronics in machine shop environments for as long as he can remember. What really brings him joy, though, is working with — and teaching — others who share the sentiment.
The Midland resident was recognized this spring for his work leading a group of high school students who competed as one of 160 teams that qualified for the FIRST Robotics state championships hosted by SVSU in April 2018. Leonard was a finalist for the Woodie Flowers Award given annually to one outstanding mentor advising a team involved in the worldwide competition.
“I was surprised but honored when I heard about that,” said Leonard, an adviser to the Bullock Creek High School FIRST Robotics team, BlitzCreek Robotics.
Eden Hackett, a Bullock Creek High School student and member of BlitzCreek Robotics, wrote a letter to nominate Leonard on behalf of the team.
“He brings smiles, laughs, and innovation to our team,” she wrote. “Being without Mr. Leonard would be like having a heart without arteries. He is an inspiration, a teacher, a friend, but most importantly, a mentor that keeps our team strong and on their toes.”
That mentorship was on display during the state championship at SVSU. There, the team members were among the 5,000 high school students from 160 teams that gathered for the competition in which student-built robots face off in multi-faceted game challenges.
During the matches, Leonard was supportive from the stands in Ryder Center’s O’Neill Arena. Between games, he provided coaching and guidance as the team prepared for the next round.
“These are all students who want to be there,” Leonard said.
“They’re willing to spend as much time as is necessary because they’re having fun doing it.”