Patti Engineering Spotlight – RackSolutions and John V-Neun

Patti Engineering recently published a featured article on RackSolutions and their work with Drive Shack. John V-Neun (President of RackSolutions) gives insight into what it was like working with Patti Engineering and Drive Shack to create custom products for the golf entertainment company.

Below is the full article written and published by Patti Engineering

Patti Engineering and RackSolutions Tee Up a Solution for Drive Shack

Drive ShackDrive Shack is a golfer’s paradise offering visitors from scratch golfers to hackers a unique entertainment experience; Drive Shack has something for everyone. The three-story, indoor/outdoor all-weather golf-entertainment complex features 90 state-of-the-art interactive hitting bays, a Free Play Game Lounge with classic games like shuffleboard, skeeball and Pac-Man, a full-service restaurant and bar, an outdoor lounge and three fully equipped meeting and event rooms. Drive Shack takes golf fun to a whole new level; guests can play proprietary games such as Shackjack (golf blackjack) and Monster Hunt, or use virtual technology to play golf courses such as Teton Pines and Linfield National.  The technology used at Drive Shack is unique to the industry.  Cameras monitor each hit of the golf ball to get the angle and trajectory and project the site path which is shown on large TV screens.  The data displayed about each stroke is valuable to those looking to improve their game, and golf instructors frequently bring clients for lessons at the facility.

When Drive Shack was planning its flagship location in Orlando, FL which opened earlier this year, Patti Engineering was honored to be selected to co-develop 90 electronic golf ball dispensers with Rack Solutions.

Patti Engineering was hired to provide the electromechanical assemblies to fit into the golf ball dispenser outer housing designed by RackSolutions.  “One of the things I like about this project is that it’s not our typical industry, and not our typical business model,” said Nick Hitchcock, project manager for Patti Engineering on this program.  “Usually we design one or two of a kind, and in this project we had to build 90 of them.  It’s cool to build a product on an assembly line.”

Drive ShackOnce a prototype was ready, we sent it to Drive Shack for testing.  After getting feedback, we made some modifications and sent over a second prototype for review.  We got the green light on this one, and proceeded to build the additional units.

The golf ball dispensers feature Siemens control hardware. Patti Engineering is monitoring the system using MindSphere.  In this application, MindSphere can provide data such as utilization, overall equipment efficiency (OEE), and predictive maintenance. “MindSphere’s tremendous power lies in its adaptability to changing data requirements and its ability to remotely monitor equipment,” said Sam Hoff, CEO of Patti Engineering.  “For the Drive Shack project, MindSphere monitors usage statistics and leading indicators for predictive maintenance.”

RackSolutions designs and builds custom products including precision computer server racks, datacenter cabinets, shelves and custom mounting solutions for a number of industries.  RackSolutions is a subsidiary of Innovation First International, which also owns popular brands such as HEXBUG toys and VEX Robotics. 

The Drive Shack Orlando project was Patti Engineering’s first time partnering with RackSolutions. “It was a pleasure working with John V-Neun and his team at Rack Solutions on this project; their philosophy of finding convention-defying solutions that solve problems in creative ways aligns well with Patti Engineering’s approach to helping our customers,” said Sam.

Whether you are the next Arnold Palmer or a hacker at best, the next time you’re visiting Orlando adding Drive Shack to your list of destinations will not disappoint. Just ask our engineers lucky enough to be on the installation team for this project! Want to learn more? We found this video you should check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVRAyAK9Mi8.


Patti Spotlight: John V-Neun

John V-Neun

John’s Career PathThis month we are spotlighting RackSolutions President John V-Neun.  John’s career has truly come full circle as he now leads the organization where he started as a young mechanical engineering intern at Innovation First International, Inc. (IFI), the parent company for VEX Robotics, Inc., RackSolutions, Inc., and Innovation First Labs, Inc. (the creators of HEXBUG).  John’s career journey and his approach to business are both interesting and inspiring. If you are a student or just starting your career, you won’t want to miss John’s words of wisdom to those beginning their own journey.

During his internship, John was part of the development of the VEX Robotics Design System, an educational robotics kit designed to get high school age students excited about STEM.

After his internship was completed, John was hired full-time as a mechanical engineer working for Innovation First. As a first-year engineer, John worked on projects for the company’s RackSolutions group, including some large-scale datacenter products and custom rugged items for the military which are still sold today. John also continued to work on the quickly-growing VEX Robotics line. As VEX grew, John’s role within IFI grew as well. Eventually when VEX was launched as its own company as an IFI subsidiary, John was named the Director of Engineering.

While initially John worked as a design engineer, his enthusiasm for understanding the “why” behind a product caused him to gravitate towards product management and marketing. Eventually as VP of Product, John was in charge of the VEX Robotics Engineering, Marketing, and Design groups.

In March 2017, John was approached by the CEO of Innovation First International and asked if he was interested in a new challenge. He was, and John became president of RackSolutions, Inc.

“It’s been exciting to come back to a company as president after previously serving as the intern!” said John.  “I enjoy the fact that some of the design work I did during my time as a young engineer is still being used today – though I need to beg our engineers not to shame me based on the drawings I did as an intern!”

John graduated from Clarkson University in upstate NY with a degree in mechanical engineering.  John’s career path was influenced by his high school extracurricular activities.  “While in high school, I participated on a competition robotics team and fell in love with mechanism design,” he said.  “Ever since then my passion has been for creative problem solving, and especially creative product design!”

RackSolutions is well known within the IT and data center industry for their ability to deliver creative and custom solutions, but the company’s reach goes well beyond that. RackSolutions is built around the philosophy of finding convention-defying solutions that solve problems in creative ways. “With this philosophy at our core, we’ve found ourselves working with partners in a variety of industries,” said John.Convention-defying Solutions

“One interesting challenge we recently completed was for the golf entertainment company Drive Shack. In addition to providing some of our standard IT products, we also had the opportunity to develop custom TV mounts for hanging equipment throughout their facilities. In addition, we partnered with Patti Engineering to provide the design of their golf ball dispenser modules.” (See article above for more information.)

“This project was unlike any we’d faced, but still fell within our core competency for providing creative soutions. I’m most proud of something which happened late in the project. When we provided initial prototypes for testing, we found an issue which would cause problems with golfers swinging in certain situations. Our team was able to quickly identify a solution, adjust the design, and provide updated prototypes to Drive Shack, all without impacting schedule or cost. This is an example of why I love RackSolutions – we will creatively and quickly solve whatever problem you put in front of us.”

When asked what he likes best about his work, John said, “I love the opportunity to create ‘moments of wow’ for our customers. If you look at one of our products and think ‘whoa, that’s really cool how they did that’ – I live for those moments! This applies not just to the design of our products, but also to the level of service we provide our customers.”

John goes on to say, “I can’t begin to count how many data-centers have come to us saying ‘We started our install, but realized our servers won’t actually fit in the racks we bought – everyone says you’re the ones to call – can you help?’  Absolutely we can help! We’ll help you figure out what you need to solve your mounting issue, and get it shipped out the same day for delivery tomorrow. The appreciative responses we get from customers are what make this job great.”

When Not at WorkJohn V-Neun

John grew up in the Capital Region of New York, and now lives outside Dallas, TX.  When not at work, John loves riding and working on motorcycles, and he currently rides a BMW R nineT, although his love of speed isn’t just limited to 2-wheeled vehicles. “I’m fortunate to have participated in the Gumball 3000 automotive rally last year, driving from Riga, Latvia to Mykonos, Greece.”

John also spends his free time mentoring the local Greenville, TX Robotics Team – the Robowranglers. “I love working with the local high school students and mentoring them in the same way I was mentored as a student. Our team won the 2018 World Championship in April!”

Words of Wisdom

John has great advice for the students he mentors and those who are just starting their careers. “Don’t be afraid to say: ‘I don’t know’ and don’t be afraid to ask why something is the way it is… because maybe, there is no good reason for it being that way!”

John emphasizes that saying “I don’t know” and “Why?” can be very powerful words. “When we’re trying to find creative solutions, it is important to challenge the conventions everyone ‘just knows.’ By coming into each discussion with a beginner’s mindset, you more naturally will ask ‘Why?’ until things make sense, or everyone realizes, ‘Maybe this doesn’t make sense, and we need to find a different way.’ ”

John’s final advice is, “You’ll go a lot further in life by acknowledging you don’t know what’s going on and having someone teach you, than by pretending and learning nothing.”

John V-Neun