Ulster Boces robot is set to rumble

The robotics students at Boces

Josh McCormick, a 17-year-old senior at Saugerties High, is living and breathing robotics these days. In a few weeks the robotics class he’s been taking as part of the Ulster Boces Career & Technical Center’s New Visions program will be entering its own robot in a major regional competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy in March.

In November, McCormick and the other students in his New Visions advanced robotics program – from Ellenville and New Paltz, as well as Christopher Backus and Nicholas Dennis from Saugerties – took home the gold in a Robot Rumble Off-Season Competition at Ballston Spa High School. They’ve also attended a kickoff event at RPI.

In March they’ll be competing against 34 teams from Canada, China, Netherlands, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Hawaii. A further competition for winners at the Troy event will take place in New York City in April.


“This first robotics competition in Troy is a very large competition which was thousands of dollars to enter and is our class’s main focus,” McCormick said in an email interview. “If we do well enough we will advance and down the road could compete at even a national level. Being able to work with a variety of kids from my school and other schools has been great. All of the students work well together, and it provides us with many different points of view.”

The Ulster program recently received $12,000 in grant funding from New York Tech Valley First to participate in the upcoming robotics events. The money will go for tools, materials, transportation, team paraphernalia, food and miscellaneous expenses. An additional $6000 grant from NASA has paid the team’s registration fees.

“The robotics class lets you decide what projects you wish to take on (within reason),” McCormick wrote. “Examples: Solar powered car, robotics, parts for NASA, etc. Our teacher, Mr. [Mark] Harris, is very personable and a great person. He teaches and helps us understand all of the aspects of the engineering process. Without him as my teacher I do not think I would get nearly as much out of this program.”

McCormick has been interested in engineering since seventh grade, although he only found out about robotics a year or so ago. “I’m planning on going into electrical engineering, possibly going for my master’s after I get my bachelor’s degree,” he wrote. “I’m hoping to go to Syracuse University’s college of engineering.”

Christopher Backus thinks the local Boces program gives the team a big edge. “Most students go to college and they don’t have experience programming, machining, or any of the stuff that we are doing right now,” he said.

McCormick too emphasized how much he’s learned from his New Visions focus, as well as his concentrated work in recent weeks. “Robotics will play a huge role in my future as well as most people,” he explained. “Production of materials is almost completely robotic at this point. With today’s technology, robotics is helping people with their day-to-day lives more and more.”