Kettering University graduate inspires students through robotics

Dan Mantz ’91 had a vision for a robotics program that encouraged students to take to STEM fields and become engineers and skilled technicians.

He’s now achieving it as the CEO of the Texas-based Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation.

“We want to change the world by inspiring young people to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields,” Mantz said.

The foundation partners with VEX Robotics to provide curriculums and robotics competitions in more than 50 countries. There are 19,000 VEX Robotics teams worldwide and 2,000 competitions that reach 200,000 students. Classroom programs reach another 800,000 students worldwide.

A long-time believer in robotics education, Mantz joined the REC Foundation in February 2016 as a board member and was elected chairman. At the time, he was president of Rack Solutions. During the next few months, Mantz looked at the REC Foundation’s strengths and resources. He presented the findings to the board, which elected him CEO in June 2017.

Listening is a key part of his job, he said.

“As I travel across the country to meet with students, coaches, parents, our partners, and sponsors, I’m always impressed with the passion that the competitive robotics experience instills and I learn more everyday about how to better provide this opportunity to more students,” he said.

The focus on robotics isn’t only to encourage future engineers, Mantz said. One of Mantz’s ideas for the REC Foundation is to increase the focus on introducing students to skilled work in addition to engineering.

Dan Mantz '91

“Engineering isn’t for everybody, but through this experience students gain teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills which will benefit them well into their future regardless of their career choice,” he said.

The programs are also affordable, allowing more students to join.

Mantz came to Kettering University from Pennsylvania to learn about manufacturing because he felt this industry was a good match for him. As a child, his idol was automotive executive Lee Iacocca who was in Michigan turning around Chrysler Corporation. Iacocca believed good business management and good engineering principals were the best ways to run a manufacturing business, which Mantz said inspired him.

Once on campus, Mantz became involved in various extracurricular activities, which he said was one of the best aspect of Kettering. Mantz was the editor of The Technician, was on the radio and joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Being editor taught him how to write, which he said has helped him more than anything else in his career.

He advises students become well-rounded and explore activities outside of their degree program.

Another positive aspect of Kettering was that day-in and day-out, Mantz was surrounded by motivated and ambitious people who wanted to make an impact in the world. That made a difference when he started his career.

“I learned from my peers at Kettering that in order to be successful in manufacturing, you had to have a strong work ethic and constantly challenge yourself,” he said.