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Grant Kobes

Honors Leadership Program Student Leads Vex U Robotics Team to World Championship and International Community Service Award in its First Year

It is common to find Leadership Studies minor students in the traditionally recognized student leadership positions and honors. Each graduating class of the Leadership Studies minor, since its inception in Fall 2015, has included at least one TorchBearer and Chancellors Honors Award recipients including 2 Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service recipients. By its 4th graduating class in Spring 2019, the LSM alumni will include 5 student government executive officers (including 2 presidents and 2 vice presidents) and a President of the Panhellenic Council. It might be helpful to share that in addition to our students graduating as exemplary student leaders, this year a freshman pursuing the honors leadership studies minor and a member of the inaugural Honors Leadership Program shows what our students can do with a little support and nudge.

Grant Kobes – a first year Honors Leadership Program student completing an assignment for his first foundations of leadership course within the minor – created a strategic leadership plan to found and serve as the chief engineer for UTK’s Vex U Robotics Team, YNOT.  Grant secured a team mentor and started a new student organization after writing a budget, constitution, holding interest meetings/ individual member skills evaluations/ and officer elections.  His team spent the fall serving as volunteer referees and judges at high school events in order to gain experience with game strategy.  With no sponsor or work space, Grant and his teammates created their first robot iteration in the floor of his dorm room!  Team YNOT had an amazing first season, ranking 5th in world in autonomous programming and driver skills, and competing at the 2018 Vex Robotics World Championship.

One of Grant’s top leadership goals is reflected in Team YNOT’s mission statement: a focus on mentoring younger teams in the Knoxville community. Their work last year included creating an alliance of more than 15 area high school teams, all of which were personally coached by UTK’s team members.  The impact of this collaboration was recognized and praised by judges, resulting in team YNOT receiving the prestigious Community Award at this year’s World Championship.  This award is presented to the university level team that has demonstrated the most meaningful leadership and influence toward promoting STEM education in their local community.  Grant’s goal is to use competitive robotics to recruit the most talented high school students from the Knoxville area to the Tickle College of Engineering in the coming years.

Grant was also honored with an invitation to attend the 2018 Vex Robotics Event Partner Summit in Greenville, Texas.  This all-expense paid trip allowed leaders in Vex robotics from around the world a chance to meet at Vex headquarters to discuss the coming season.  As the youngest attendee in Vex history, Grant connected with many key individuals at both the state and national level.

This summer, Grant recruited over 50 new members while promoting his team at 11 of 13 orientation sessions.  His leadership philosophy focuses on personally getting to know each perspective student’s strengths and interests so that he can help them become a valued team member.  Grant invites anyone interested to contact him at gkobes@vols.utk.edu or the team Instagram @YNOTrobotics.

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