Knoxville man with autism makes 'Robotz' with spare parts

Knoxville man with autism makes 'Robotz' with spare parts

Posted:
John Ryan Lee's favorite hobby is building his Robotz out of electrical parts. John Ryan Lee's favorite hobby is building his Robotz out of electrical parts.
"He's kind of in his element. This is, I guess you could say, his therapy," said Jason Riddle, residential director at Breakthrough. "He's kind of in his element. This is, I guess you could say, his therapy," said Jason Riddle, residential director at Breakthrough.
"When he comes in and works he's always got a smile on his face," said his boss, Michael Hanel. "When he comes in and works he's always got a smile on his face," said his boss, Michael Hanel.
The Robotz are given away as trophies at the non-profit's annual 5K race and their golf tournament. The Robotz are given away as trophies at the non-profit's annual 5K race and their golf tournament.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - An autistic adult with a passion for putting things together has become known for one signature creation. 

John Ryan Lee's favorite hobby is building his Robotz out of electrical parts. John Ryan doesn't speak, but those who know him say this is what makes him the happiest.

"He's kind of in his element. This is, I guess you could say, his therapy. This is what he likes to do," said Jason Riddle, residential director at Breakthrough, a non-profit that serves adults with autism.

John Ryan has lived in Breakthrough supportive housing for several years.

"The main thing with him is that he really focuses on very few things. The Robotz you've been looking at, he's been building those for 15 years now," Riddle said. 

His passion was sparked by the spare parts his father would bring home from his electrical supply company. Now John Ryan has his own job, restocking at Harbor Freight Tools in Fountain City six hours a week.

"You ask him where something goes in the store, he knows exactly where to go with it," said his boss, Michael Hanel. "The biggest thing is John's excitement towards it. John loves coming in here every morning. When he comes in and works he's always got a smile on his face." 

"Some of the Robotz he sells for between $45 and $60, but a vast majority of them are given away as gifts. John Ryan has a big heart," Riddle said.

The Robotz are also given away as trophies at the non-profit's annual 5K race and their golf tournament, which is coming up on Sept. 23. 

If you're interested in learning more about John Ryan's Robotz or buying one, you can call Breakthrough at 865-247-0065.

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