Robots invading football fields lend a helping hand

Willie Lowry has spent the past 40 years working for the Manatee County School District. 

Much of that time has been spent on the county's football and baseball fields making sure every foul line, yard line, and hash mark was perfect. 

"I started painting football fields back in 1996-97," Lowry says. "So, you can take it from there; I've been painting a lot of football fields."

These days, Willie Lowry's canvas is the football field at the Parrish Community High School. His artist's brush, however, recently got a big upgrade. 

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"I never thought I'd see the day that I would be operating a robot to paint the football field. Never thought it," said Lowry. 

Yes, you can apparently teach an old dog new tricks because in 2021 the school bought Lowry a Turf Tank. 

Now, all Willie Lowry has to do is program the robot with a tablet, fill it with paint, and watch the Turf Tank go to work. 

"I was totally amazed at what the robot was doing, and I got really excited," said Lowry. "I thought that this was really, really going to cut back on a lot of time." 

A job that used to take Willie Lowry days now takes his robot only a few hours which has given Willie a new appreciation for his little helper.

"I named it Little Willie," Lowry proudly proclaims. "They call me Big Willie, so I named the robot Little Willie." 

Now, it's Little Willie's job to make sure the field at Parrish Community High is ready for the bright lights of Friday night. 

"I wouldn't trade this for nothing. This is what's going on right here," said Lowry. 

All Big Willie has to do is make sure that Little Willie stays on track. 

"Sometimes Little Willie has a mind of his own, now," joked Lowry. 

At the same time, Willie Lowry couldn't imagine a better helping hand than Little Willie.