The Malleable Metal Mark McCombs
Mark is executive director for Renaissance Jax, a nonprofit dedicated to building FIRST Robotics teams in every school in Northeast Florida. “We are giving them the tools that they will absolutely employ. They are going to use that to develop this contagious attitude toward solving problems, learning, working as a team and just generally being awesome kids,” says the twenty-seven-year-old non-profit leader. “He’s a one-man band, who is trying to get other people involved … we need fifty Marks,” says Peter Rummell in a taped interview.
I met Mark on the flip side of a very big year. We talked about the personal costs, what life is like on the other side, and being more than that one thing.
Are you a machinist, or an artist?
I tell people I’m a machinist, but most people know me as Metal Mark. That name came from when I was in college. I started a club to promote my and my brother’s metal band. I’d run around campus just destroying an acoustic guitar. It was the most brutal pummeling earache metal that you could possibly induce upon people. So I became Metal Mark. I like to listen to metal while I make metal. It makes it work better.
How does the Metal Mark persona serve you?
I was doing fabrication for little engineering projects, but it really became who I was in the community because of One Spark. Taking that character outside became really important when I met the Pratt Guys [builders of custom outdoor living spaces]. I actually started my fabrication business because they wanted a completely new pergola shape and we came up with this “One Spark Gola.”
Did the name change the path of your career?
It made it easier to embody the things I was already into and push the limits of what people would allow me to be. Metal Mark became a character that allowed me to separate the fun I was having from engineering school, but then kind of took over. It’s just this character I developed and kind of became.
How did you fail your senior year in design school?
I couldn’t get along with the leader of the group I was in. He told me that my eight years of robot building and fabrication design meant nothing to him on the robot submarine team. I was not being taken seriously. I have no regrets because it really opened up a lot of doors. Nine days after I failed senior design, Sally Corporation called me out of the blue and hired me instantly because I had the experience doing all the metal work.
By Jim Alabiso