Roane State mechatronics students win top honors at Skills USA National Leadership & Skills Conference

RSCC Mechatronics students Gabriel Eady and Derek Summers received gold medals in the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference’s mechatronics competition. Students Daniel Gillette and Christian Farmer took home bronze medals in the conference’s robotics and automation competition.

Four Roane State students competed in the largest showcase of skilled trades in the country and brought home major awards in their respective career fields.

This is the first time Roane State students have placed in the national competition since RSCC began competing two years ago.

(L-R): RSCC students Gabriel Eady and Derek Summers.

Held in Atlanta June 19-23, the conference brought together thousands of students, instructors, and business partners from across the country to celebrate the accomplishments of those preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. The conference was also an opportunity for students to showcase their talents and skills on a national stage through some friendly competition.

“The idea of competing at a national level is something that I didn’t really think I’d get the chance to ever do,” said Gabriel Eady. “But then to get to compete against people from across the nation and then winning. It’s something that has taken a while to set in.”

Competing as two-person teams, Eady and Summers were put to the test in a timed competition against 15 other post-secondary institutions to build and program a machine capable of high-volume manufacturing.

Guilherme Garcia, Roane State’s Assistant Professor of Mechatronics, had been preparing the students since last fall with a unique competitive edge. He trained them to analyze the task, create a plan on how to best solve the problem, and split the job between the two of them.

(L-R): RSCC students Daniel Gillette and Christian Farmer.

“I think that job split was our main advantage between everybody,” said Garcia. “We could split the tasks, and we had a very clear path on how we were going to achieve. Whenever they finished building the machine, everything aligned perfectly. They finished at the same time and it worked out well.”

This strategy helped Eady and Summers secure the gold by completing the machine build in approximately two hours out of the eight hours allotted for the teams.

“When we got there, we saw that it was all equipment we had trained on before,” said Eady. “There were a couple curveballs, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. It was really cool to get to stand up there [on the podium] to accept our medals and be caught up in the excitement.”

Meanwhile, Gillette and Farmer had to complete a robotics and automation task assigned to them by the judges. They had to program and wire a robot, while leveraging special sensors and vision equipment to sort materials on a conveyor belt using a robotic arm.

After passing a paper test, they were given instructions and a chance to familiarize themselves with the robotics machine at the competition. However, this was their first interaction with this particular machine, as they only had simulations to guide them.

“Those guys had never seen the machine before at the competition,” said Garcia. “For them to get third place, and never see the machine before, is truly impressive.”

(L-R): Thomas Shields, Denso Manager for Machine and Tooling Integration; Daniel Gillette, student; Guilherme Garcia, RSCC Mechatronics Instructor; Christian Farmer, student; Gabriel Eady, student; and Derek Summers, student.

Global automotive manufacturer Denso Corporation partnered with Roane State to offer the students critical internship experience. These opportunities allowed the students additional hands-on training, while at the same time completing their Roane State curriculum.

“I think Denso was the key in what really put us above the rest of the competitors,” said Eady. “Getting to be in the field and working on real machines and seeing real processes gave us great experience and confidence in our own abilities to apply them. It’s a major help.”

“For the last two years, Denso has been working with us in this partnership,” said Garcia. “They ask us ‘what do the students need to learn more?’ and they deliver with additional courses and trainings. Our students were able to get their experience by working hand-in-hand with Denso.”

Three of the four students have since accepted job offers at Denso.

“To win the national competition is proof that partnerships with industries can supplement what we’re teaching in the classroom,” said Garcia.

The four students qualified for the national competition after winning gold within their respective categories at the SkillsUSA State Championships held in Chattanooga last April.

Eady and Summers are now eligible to compete on the international stage at the World Skills Competition in Lyon, France, in September 2024.

Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field that prepares students for the technology-driven manufacturing careers of today. By learning skills like computer programming, hydraulics, pneumatics, automation, and robotics, students are prepared to operate, maintain, and repair automated manufacturing systems – a highly sought-after skill set by manufacturers.

Roane State’s mechatronics program has a 100% job placement rate.

To learn more about Roane State’s Mechatronics Middle College program for high school students, visit

For more information about Roane State’s general mechatronics program, visit

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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