How Competition Inspires Next-Gen STEM Leaders

Dan Mantz - CEO of the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation

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You're probably familiar with the Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation through their most popular initiative: VEX robotics competitions.

But they do so much more! the REC Foundation is all about sparking student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by engaging them in affordable, hands-on robotics programs and competitions. Through these programs, students increase their technical abilities and workforce skills, preparing them for a bright future.

Dan Mantz, Chief Executive Officer of the REC Foundation spent the majority of his career in industrial robotics and automation. He has seen firsthand how lives can be fundamentally changed through STEM and technical careers. Today, his work at the foundation is focused on inspiring students toward these careers and helping them understand all the different pathways to and through them.

3 Big Takeaways from this episode:

  1. Competition reinforces learning & ignites creativity: All students should have the chance to get hands-on exposure to robotics and engineering technologies in the classroom - but no classroom program can compare to the life-changing experience of applying that learning in competition. The Guinness World Record-holding VEX Worlds hosts over 3,000 teams from all over the world coming together to compete. In these competitions, students' classroom knowledge becomes real-world experience where teams apply the design process, engineering process, strategize, communicate and use teamwork to win championships.
  2. The REC Foundation's programs create pathways to industrial robotics & Industry 4.0: Through VEX competitions and classroom programs using drones, sensors, programming and other ancillary technologies, the REC Foundation is getting students excited about robotics. Once they're hooked, students can work their way up to authentic industrial robotics and automation systems as well as high-tech Industry 4.0 learning systems that their district or post-secondary school offers. Dan speaks to the importance of investing in students as early as possible, giving them exposure to real Industry 4.0 technologies, and inspiring them toward technology-focused careers.
  3. Our future manufacturing and industrial business leaders will come from technical backgrounds: With all the opportunities in STEM and the skilled trades, individuals are finding more and alternative models for entering and moving upward in these careers. Today's students have the option to go to a two-year school, four-year school, apprenticeship program, direct-to-workforce, earn industry-recognized credentials, or any combination of these - at any point in their career. The REC Foundation is a huge part of this effort, whether through their educational programs or through projects like the Tesla Externship. Dan shares great insights into the endless opportunities for upward mobility and leadership for those with technical backgrounds and training.


To learn more about the REC Foundation, visit their website:

To see all events and competitions, visit:

Get in touch with Dan directly:

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