FIRST Robotics Will Hold a Regional Competition at Rockland Community College


Imagine a competition where of teams excited, technology-driven high school students compete head to head with robots they have designed, built and programmed themselves. Imagine hundreds of such teams competing in the Hudson Valley over a single weekend for the chance to advance to compete in front of 70,000 people in April at the FIRST Championship in Houston and again in May in Detroit. You don’t have to imagine it – it is real and will happen March 19 -20, 2020 at the Rockland Community College Athletic Center and you can be a part of it. Click here for event information.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 and is the world’s leading youth serving nonprofit advancing science, technology, engineering, and math. This program inspires students in grades K -12 worldwide while teaching leadership by engaging them in hands-on robotics challenges. FIRST LEGO League Jr. is for grade K-4, FIRST LEGO League is Grades 4- 8, and FIRST Tech Challenge covers grades 7 -12, while the FIRST Robotics Competition is grade 9 -12.

The program is supported by corporations, educational and professional institutions and individuals who provide mentorship time and talent, equipment, and funding. Participation in FIRST is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields. They develop self-confidence in STEM and real-world skills that can lead to careers in STEM related fields and more. High school participants are also eligible to apply for more than $80 million in scholarships to participating colleges and universities.

Working with professional Mentors participants design and build a robot, and compete in high-intensity events that reward the effectiveness of each robot, the power of team strategy and collaboration, and the determination of students. The competition teams create powerful mentoring relationships between the students and professional mentors, many of which are engineers and other professionals. The event starts with a Kickoff event that unveils a new, exciting, and challenging game. From the Kickoff, teams have limited time to build and program a robot to compete in the game using a kit of parts provided by FIRST and a standard set of rules. This year’s theme focuses on renewable sources of energy and is titled INFINITE RECHARGE.

Perhaps the program has achieved such amazing results because FIRST is known for Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. If you haven’t heard these terms before – “Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process.” And at FIRST, Coopertition is “displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition.” Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.

Last year nearly 100,000 high school students on 3,940 FIRST Robotics Competition teams took part in 100 district events, 11 District Championships, and 62 Regional Events (in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico, and Turkey), and the FIRST Championship. Teams are comprised of professional mentors and 10 or more student members in grades 9-12. In addition, each FIRST team has one or more sponsors. Those sponsors include companies, universities, or professional organizations that donate their time, talent, funds, equipment, and much more to the team effort.

FIRST is a volunteer driven organization with more than 255,000 volunteer roles filled in the 2017-18 season. There are several FIRST programs in the Hudson Valley and opportunities for anyone reading this to become a volunteer. Many of the technical roles may require some experience and training but there are opportunities for safety advisors, field set-up, field re-set and similar tasks that can be a good fit for a first-time technical volunteer. Interested volunteers can visit the FIRST Inspires website HERE for more information about how to become a mentor, coach, or event volunteer.

Your company can also support the Regional Competition by participating in the College and Career Fair planned for the first day of the competition, March 19, 2020.  Your participation will highlight the many career options open to these highly motivated students in manufacturing.

For more information visit the FIRST Inspire website HERE.

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Meet Stephen Casa – Workplace Learning Coordinator at Ulster BOCES


Stephen Casa has been the Workplace Learning Coordinator at Ulster BOCES since early 2018. Ulster BOCES operates as an extension of local school districts that provides shared programs and educational services, serving eight public schools throughout the county. Casa plays an interesting role acting as the lead connector between BOCES programs and the business community. At the moment he’s playing an important part in building relationships for the Hudson Valley Pathways Academy and the Career and Technical Education Center specifically.   

Casa attended Saint John’s University to study Management and Finance, and later got his master’s degree in Instructional Technology from the New York Institute of Technology. After college he started his career in education as a math teacher to middle school students in Brooklyn. His goal at the time was to eventually teach business courses at the high school level. His career took a turn when he decided to take a leap of faith and walk into the high school a week before school was starting to inquire about any openings. He went into the building a middle school math teacher and walked out with a full-time position at James Madison High School in a program called the Academy of Finance.

Casa’s role in the Academy of Finance set his career on the path that it is today. The Academy of Finance is a member of the National Academy Foundation (NAF). It’s a progressive model that combines schoolwork with experiential learning. The academy’s connections with the business community helped students secure paid summer internships and gain real-world experience. Casa told us that this was his first exposure to “education as it should be.”

As the Workplace Learning Coordinator for Ulster BOCES, Casa also works closely with the Council of Industry. The Council of Industry is the lead Industry Partner for the Hudson Valley Pathways Academy, and Casa works directly with many members to help setup workplace learning challenges.  These challenges are immersive projects given to the students at Hudson Valley Pathways Academy by local businesses. Casa also helps coordinate internship opportunities for students through his connections with the business community. “The Council of Industry has been incredibly helpful in identifying businesses that see the benefit of engaging with Ulster BOCES and the students” said Casa.

Casa is passionate about what he does and told us that making connections and watching those connections make a real impact are the best parts of his job. He believes giving students real-world experience as early as possible plays a big role in preparing them for their future. Casa told us that if he could offer some advice to young adults it would be to, “take any opportunity you can get to work with the business community, whether it’s a job shadow or an internship. Those learning experiences are what open your eyes to what’s possible.”   

Hudson Valley Pathways Academy has seen tremendous success since its beginning just a few years ago. The P-TECH school offers a six-year pathway of study, which results in students earning an associate’s degree and puts them first in line for available positions with industry partners. The Career and Technical Education Center also prepares students for the future by offering dozens of high-tech training programs that lead to in-demand jobs. With both programs experiencing such success, we asked Casa what his biggest challenges have been along the way. He told us that getting education providers and business partners to fully recognize the benefits of working together has been a struggle, but when you finally get them at the same table and allow them to see the win-wins it can make significant change.

The future of education is bright, and the programs offered at Ulster BOCES are a shining example of what’s to come. Experiential learning will likely play a much larger role in education in the future. Today many students don’t get real-world experience until after high school or during college. However, we’re already beginning to see the shift with Ulster BOCES. Casa emphasized the importance of teaching young adults how to be adaptable and believes that the work they’re doing at Ulster BOCES is setting these students up with the skills they need to be successful.

If you’d like to learn more about Ulster BOCES or find out how you can be involved visit  

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What Do Americans Think about Manufacturing—and Its Future?


From NAM Input, The National Association of Manufacturers

Do Americans think manufacturing is important? How do they view the technological changes transforming the industry along with the rest of the economy?

Two recent surveys shed light on these important questions. First, a survey conducted by the Brookings Institution asked Americans what they think about manufacturing’s present state. More from the survey summary:

  • “Fifty-eight percent believe manufacturing is very important to the American economy, 14 percent think it is somewhat important, 6 percent feel it is not very important, and 22 percent are unsure.”

However, opinion varied markedly by age group, with younger people seeing manufacturing as less important:

  • “Seventy-one percent of people over the age of 55 believe manufacturing is very important, whereas only 45 percent of those aged 18 to 34 years feel that way. That is a 26 percentage point difference in feelings about the subject between these age groups.”

Now, what about manufacturing’s future? Another survey, by Gallup and Northwestern University, asked Americans, Canadians and Brits whether they thought their countries were prepared for technological change in the “AI age.” From Bloomberg’s writeup:

  • “Just 1 in 4 Americans are confident that the higher education system is doing enough to address the need for career-long learning and retraining.”
  • “Tuition costs are the biggest deterrent, followed by academic programs that aren’t keeping up with an evolving workplace environment, according to the survey.”

These findings underline the importance of The Manufacturing Institute’s mission and the new Creators Wanted Fund that will support significant programming in 2020 to improve industry perceptions as well as expand the Institute’s efforts.

First, too many young people have the wrong image of manufacturing. Many still envision the same sort of factories their grandfathers worked in, instead of the high-tech, stimulating environment it is today. Brookings’ results suggest that manufacturers must do better at showing young people how manufacturing is leading the 21st-century economy—a key mission of the Institute.

Meanwhile, Americans are right to worry that our educational system isn’t prepared for technological change, which will create opportunities as much as disruptions. That’s why the Institute is fundraising for its new $10 million Creators Wanted Fund, which will enable it to increase participation in apprenticeships and other educational programs by 25 percent through 2025. Learn more about the fund and related programming by contacting NAM Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas.


The Council of Industry has its own solution, the NYS Registered Apprentice Program is available to individuals with tactical skills and math aptitude. This apprenticeship has two basic elements. The first, On-the-Job Training (OJT), consists of a journey-level, craft person capable and willing to share their experience with an apprentice, in a hands-on manner. The second, Related Instruction (RI), consists of learning more theoretical or knowledge-based aspects of a craft. Applicants must be 18 years or older, eligible to work in the United States and possess a superior work ethic. To be a registered apprentice, an individual must be employed by a participating employer. The apprentice is required to complete a minimum of 18 months up to 4 years of on-the-job training (depending on the position) and 144 hours or required related instruction per year. For more information visit our website or contact Johnnieanne Hansen at or call (845) 565 – 1355.

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One High School, One Principal, One BIG Impact


Manufacturing companies all over the Hudson Valley are eager to recruit and train the next generation of young men and women to continue the legacy of building quality products used across the nation and overseas. Thanks to the efforts of a high school principal and technology teacher, this process is going to become easier. Aaron Hopmayer has been the principal of Pine Bush High School for almost 18 years. Throughout those years, Mr. Hopmayer has created several programs aimed at students interested in pursuing a trade.

HV MFG sat down with Mr. Hopmayer back in 2018 to discuss the progress made over the years. Growing up, Mr. Hopmayer was not fully sure what he wanted to pursue as a career. After graduating high school, he joined the Army and served in Iraq and various other places. After serving, Mr. Hopmayer came back to the Hudson Valley and became a student at SUNY New Paltz where he majored in Secondary Education/Social Studies and eventually earned a masters in Special Education. His first teaching job was in Fallsburg where he learned what it takes to support both students and teachers while meeting state education requirements.

After working at Fallsburg, Mr. Hopmayer began working at Pine Bush High School which houses around 1,800 students in grades 9 through 12. The high school is home to a diverse community that is continuing to grow with a district budget of $115 million. From the very first day, Mr. Hopmayer said the main focus of the school is the children and making sure the faculty/staff is doing everything possible to ensure they will develop into successful adults. One of the initiatives started is called Summer Academies, which range from 1-4 weeks in duration and teach kids various subjects. Currently, there are 6 different disciplines including Leadership and Law, Aviation, Performing Arts, Science, Horsepower & Engineering, and Medical. Each program is taught by district teachers as well as community leader who specialize in the given field. The program is so successful that students are even able to earn SUNY Orange Community College Credit in some classes. In addition, STEM Academy was created to help incoming high schoolers gain exposure to manufacturing programs.

Mr. Hopmayer contributes many of the successes to the excellent staff he works with that always show enthusiasm and energy towards the students. Over the past few years, Pine Bush High School has seen fewer fights thanks to programs designed to help students find their passions. With many manufacturers across the Hudson Valley looking to hire new talents, the hard work that Mr. Hopmayer, the faculty, and the students have put into these programs will soon pay off.


The full interview between HV MFG and Mr. Hopmayer can be viewed here. 

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Dark Skies – Why is it important and what can you do about it

photo credit Laurie Blake, Selux

What is the one pollution that we can easily alleviate with no lasting detriment to our environment? Light pollution, and it affects more than just our ability to see the stars at night. On Wednesday, February 20th, Selux Corporation in Highland, NY hosted the first meeting of The Council of Industry’s Engineering/ Technical Network with a presentation on Understanding Dark Skies by James Brigagliano, LC, IES, LEED Green Assoc. and Product Manager for Selux.  The event included a delicious breakfast and a tour of the manufacturing facility after the presentation. This topic is especially relevant to Selux because they manufacture IDA-Approved Dark Sky friendly luminaires. 

Light pollution disrupts the world’s ecosystem. According to, “Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants” This includes people, negatively affecting human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more. It is also estimated that 30% of all outdoor lighting in the US is wasted or unnecessary, this equals $3.3 billion dollars in wasted energy. New technology can help to conserve this energy and reduce the wasted light.

Redirecting outdoor lighting at night can increase safety. Glare from bright, unshielded lights actually decreases safety because it can shine into our eyes and constricts our pupils. This can not only be blinding, it also makes it more difficult for our eyes to adjust to low-light conditions. Smart lighting redirects light to where it is needed.

Selux has many outdoor fixtures that meet the IDA (International Dark-sky Association) Seal of Approval meaning they minimize glare, reduce light trespass and don’t pollute the night sky. Their recommendation is that to minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should:

  • Only be on when needed
  • Only light the area that needs it
  • Be no brighter than necessary
  • Minimize blue light emissions
  • Be fully shielded (pointing downward)

“James’ presentation was very informative, and it was great to learn more about light pollution and the possible solutions from someone who is so passionate about the subject. I think everyone there got a lot out of it!” said Serena Cascarano. Following the presentation, attendees were treated to a tour of the manufacturing facility. The presentation itself was held in Selux’s showroom with a variety of amazing lighting fixtures for both in and outdoors. We hope you will join us for the next Engineering/Technical Network presentation/tour and invite our members to submit ideas for future topics and locations.

If you have a presentation idea or would like to host the next Engineering/ Technical event please contact Alison Butler (

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Council Partner M-TEC Offering Cyber Security Assessments for Manufacturers

Council of Industry friend and partner the Manufacturing and Technology Enterprise Center (M-TEC) is offering cyber security assessments to Hudson Valley manufacturers. Risk assessments are the best way for organizations to lay a solid foundation for an effective cyber security strategy. It is an ideal starting point for any business looking for guidance as to what they should focus their resources on and commit to going forward.

These assessments cost $5,600 but for a limited time a $3,000 grant is available to defray that cost.

What does a Risk Assessment Provide?

MTEC’s risk assessment is based on the standards for cyber security assessment developed by the  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and can address:

  • Risk identification and management
  • Comprehensive understanding and awareness of current cyber security industry standards
  • External vulnerability testing in regard to firewall protection and internal network exposure
  • Review of current policies related to information security, data protection, and access control
  • A detailed description of the vulnerabilities found through the assessment with prioritized security risks to focus on and maintenance procedures
  • Assessment of current anomaly and event monitoring, as well as response planning for future
  • Follow-up assessment upon completion of the initial assessment to ensure compliance with industry standards and provide documentation of such

Most small businesses believe they do not store customer information that is of value, while more than half store email addresses, phone numbers, and billing addresses.

Any company connected to the internet can expect to fall victim to cyber security as criminals expand their ability to steal money directly and turn stolen data into money. If you are a company that is connected to the internet, you have something that can be exploited.

According to the US National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), 39% of all cyber attacks in  2016 were against the manufacturing sector, up from 33% the year before, with breaches costing between $1m and $10m.

If you think you may be at risk consider this low cost assessment from M-TEC. to find out more contact:

Phyllis Levine
Manager of Marketing & Administration
(845) 391-8214 ext.3001

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The Race Between Humans and Robots


The ongoing fear that robots will one day take over all of our jobs may not be as accurate as once believed. Many manufacturing companies are beginning to focus more effort on increasing the efficiency of their workforce, rather than investing in automation and equipment. Their thought is that investments in machines have a higher risk of going to waste if there’s a downturn in the economy. The chance that robots can be left sitting unused out weighs the benefit of increased productivity.

However, this isn’t the case at every manufacturing company. Big name corporations like Tesla are making huge investments in equipment in an effort to make the entire factory floor automated. This method certainly has the benefit of a faster and more efficient process but if business begins to dip these investments will be hard to reverse.

Spending on robotics is estimated to be about $90 billion in 2018, with a large portion of that spending coming from the industrial and manufacturing industries. Yet many companies are beginning to optimize how they use employees rather than purchasing more machines. Skilled workers are a key component in making these machines run efficiently. The integration of employees AND technology is what will make these manufacturing companies more productive.

It seems that humans are coming out on top in the race between humans and robots. These machines still need human hands operating them. The next challenge is finding the skilled workers necessary to operate this equipment, and with unemployment below 4% wages are going up and skilled workers are harder to find. Moving forward it will be increasingly important to invest in current employees.

For more information about the race between robots and humans read the full article here.

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Manufacturing Takes a Step into the Future


New technology is continuously revolutionizing the manufacturing industry and making processes more efficient. Many are calling these advancements “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” and if companies take advantage they can become more efficient, increase production and reduce costs. Even small changes that are simple to implement can make a huge impact.

Smarter facilities are making manufacturers more competitive and allowing them to more easily adapt to changes in the market. A popular trend is to update the facility and machinery to create a connected and smart modern factory. This includes making changes to existing equipment, streamlining processes and adopting new technologies.

When an entire facility is interconnected through the use of data, a plant can operate at a level of intelligence and efficiency that was once impossible. “Harnessed directly from sensor-fitted equipment, complex raw data is translated into status charts, annotation notes and to-do lists which are displayed via an interactive touchscreen display, delivering an easily digestible insight into how the factory is operating in that precise moment.” This allows the shop floor to make quicker, more informed decisions throughout the production process, and issues are caught almost immediately.

Even older equipment is being brought into the modern era with the use of sensors. Sensors are “connected to software which can measure key variables such as temperature, pressure, vibration and power consumption, they give machines a voice – and allow engineering to understand the real-time performance of key pieces of equipment.” This new technology transforms legacy equipment into efficient and smart machines.

The success of Industry 4.0 suggests that even more progress will be made in the future, and many believe that virtual reality will one day have a big impact on manufacturing. Factories are continuously getting smarter and huge advancements aren’t far away.

If you’d like to read more about smart factories and the technology changing the manufacturing industry, you can find the full article here.

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The Potential of Augmented Reality to Reshape Worker Training

Could augmented reality, or AR, be the way forward for the manufacturing workforce? The problems manufacturing faces with building a skilled workforce have been well documented. New workers coming into the plant are faced with having to adapt to a new work environment of collaborative robots and machine learning-driven applications. At the same time, they have to maintain, or in some cases re-learn, the legacy knowledge that is being lost as older generations exit the workforce. Can AR, an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, solve that problem?

Plenty of companies, from large entities like Microsoft to smaller companies and even startups, are pointing AR toward the challenge of worker training. In theory, it could allow trainees an up close look at incredibly complicated machines, and give them an opportunity to work with them in a way that simulates the experience far more effectively than a traditional classroom could, while also keeping them from having to operate the real thing before they are ready. The technology though is still new, and until its is more refined there are reasons to be skeptical of how effectively it could replicate the experience.

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