Dying robotics coach raising money to take team to World Championships

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Ervin Schoolfield holds many titles: mentor, father and veteran name only a few. But last December, Schoolfield found out that the next year may be his last to serve in those roles.

"I'm on a train with one stop left, and I know that," he said. "I can complain to the conductor, or I could look out the window and enjoy the ride."

Cancer is overtaking Schoolfield's body. With months to live, Schoolfield spends his time with his two loves, his children and robotics.

"For me, it's a matter of spending more time with my kids and two, having a purpose," Schoolfield said. "When you have a terminal disease, you realize you lack a little bit of purpose and a reason to wake up every morning."

So Schoolfield combined his purpose with his goal and began mentoring his kids, along with other students, at Halls High School.

"He's really offered a whole lot of knowledge and help in areas that we're kind of weak in and don't really know about," said Blaine Snyder, a senior in the robotics program.

Schoolfield turned his weakness into strength, in and out of the classroom.

"I lost my parents last year and that was a really tough time for me, so to be able to help someone who is going through a similar rough time, like Ervin, is really gratifying," Snyder said.

After seeing their mentor in need, Schoolfield's team was looking for ways to help. So they began providing meals to his family, and they worked to create a scholarship in his memory.

"When you see someone in need that has given so much to you and sacrificed so much to you, to me it seems like human nature to repay that, but at the same time we're like a big family here," said Morgan Everett, the lead mentor for the Halls High School robotics team.

Schoolfield's legacy will give a student a chance to pay for college who might not go otherwise.

"That's humbling," Schoolfield said. "That hits you hard."

Schoolfield's cancer is too far gone, so doctors took him off his regularly scheduled chemotherapy treatments.

"My tumor has doubled since July in my liver, that's likely the one that'll get me," Schoolfield said. "We have time. I can tell my kids I love them. Here at least I have a chance to let them know I love them, help them to prepare for the future. I know it won't be easy, but I feel like I have a part in my life and death."

On March 29, Local 8 News caught back up with Schoolfield, whose robotics team was preparing to attend the 2018 World Championships for robotics in Houston, Texas. The competition was set to take place April 17 through 21, 2018.

However, the students need $20,000 before the entire team can attend the event. If you would like to donate to help the team attend the championships, click here.

"Knowing the kids do 100 percent of the work, that's inspiring to me," he said in March. "You're competing with people who do that for a job, and you're doing it at a level that take you to World's, you're doing it better than everyone else.

"[It's] the biggest deal, it's their Super Bowl, it's the thing that they strive for, it's the thing they want more than anything."

If you would like to donate to create Schoolfield's legacy scholarship, visit the Halls Robotics Team website.