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Gem of the Week: Honoring Ed

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ)--This week’s Gem is a leader and a mentor to high school students and adults in several communities.

However - a true example of how looks may be deceiving - as this idol is nothing more than a bunch of metal and wires.

Class has been out for nearly 4 hours - but these kids are still busy in the shop at Northwood Public School.

Team 876 is tinkering - putting the finishing touches on its robot for the upcoming regional competition.

“Six weeks to build all of this glory that you see,” said Senior, LleAuni Redding.

The team's seniors say this robot has been one of the more challenging ones..

“It's been kind of a long process and interesting process with the whole arm assembly and suction system,” said Senior, Dillon Anderson.

Maybe because one of the team's longtime mentors is not in the shop this season....

“He was very inspiring, even if he didn't know how to fix the problem, he knew there was a solution and he drove the kids to find the solution no matter how difficult it was,” said Anderson.

That man Ed Wheeler....

"We were a big part of his life and he was a big part of ours,” said Robotics Mentor, Mike Voglewede, of Hatton-Northwood.

An even bigger part than these kids probably realized.

“Those kids were his fire,” said daughter, Marcy Douglas.

Ed passed away last summer from prostate cancer.

“We know for sure he would not have lived the length that he did if it wasn't for robotics,” said Douglas.

The longtime dairy farmer and mechanic for UPS moved to Northwood in the mid 90s to be close to family. It's here where this Mr. Fix It expanded his family - not at home - but in the community.

“He took great joy in what the kids became, engineers and teachers, even if their life did not become all about that robot, how they took the life lessons,” said Douglas.

Ed loved science so much - he donated his body to UND for research.

As he approached his final days - Ed insisted on not having a funeral - but was convinced otherwise - so his extended family - his robotics teams - could say goodbye.

They served as honorary pallbearers.  

“It was a family to him, those kids meant the world to him,” said Douglas

In the shop - the kids are hard at work - after their robot had some technical difficulties. And of course Ed is there - but in a different way.

“We wanted to name the robot Ed,” said Anderson.

So when the Hatton-Northwood Thunder robotics team storms the Alerus Center next week to take on nearly 50 other teams from across the midwest - Ed will be there leading the way just like he did for years.

“It's going to be sad but it’s also going to be happy at the same time, hopefully we do good and the robot that we built after him lives up to him, but i don't think it can because nothing can live up to him,” said Anderson.

You can catch the 2018 First Robotics Competition next Friday and Saturday at the Alerus Center.

It starts each day at 10 am.

The event is free.