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Competition robot recovered after team’s trailer stolen during visit to Utah

Posted at 9:44 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 23:44:53-05

WEST VALLEY CITY — A high school robotics team from California has been reunited with a robot that took months to build but was stolen during a recent visit to Utah.

“They’re excited, its like a major relief,” said John Yelinek, the team’s mentor.

The team from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California was competing at the Maverik Center last weekend.

Sunday morning, they realized the trailer containing their tools and the robot they named El Toro XXI was stolen from the parking lot of the Country Inn and Suites in West Valley City.

As Yelinek was driving from Utah back to the Bay Area, without the team’s robot, he received a notification that forced him to turn his car around.

“Three guys, we don’t even know who they were, but three guys found it and they actually Instagrammed our students and said, ‘Hey we found your robot’,” Yelinek said.

Yelinek drove to the West Valley City Police station, where he surveyed the damage on the robot.

“We may have to replace some of the electronics,” he said. “It was left out overnight, so there was some rust on some of the bolts.”

The thieves also took an expensive camera attached to El Toro XXI.

“These are high res cameras, and it looks like they cut one off, but that's OK. We will replace the camera,” Yelinek said

He will drive the robot back to California so his students can make the necessary repairs.

“They know they got a lot of work to do, but not nearly as much as they were going to have to,” Yelinek said. “Yeah, they were very, very, excited.”

And while the team won’t have to build a robot from scratch, their trailer was found missing most of their tools — a loss of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

“I think probably $30,000 of tools,” Yelinek said. “We had an air compressor and two big tool boxes, and they are full of tools.”

Those items are replaceable, but the thousands of hours of work done by his students are priceless.

While they are facing some unexpected challenges and must repair El Toro XXI before their next competition, they are confident they’ll be ready to compete in Boise at the end of this month.