Today, tomorrow meet in ULC, Science Center alliance

Sky high: By engaging students through Riverhead's Long Island Science Center, Hauppauge-based ULC Robotics hopes to promote UAV skills and other technical know-how essential to the 21st century workforce.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

An innovative alliance will unite one of Long Island’s top robotics companies with a Riverhead nonprofit on a mission to prepare young learners for the 21st century workforce.

Hauppauge-based ULC Robotics will share its industry expertise – including on-site classes, field trips to its bustling production facility and hands-on mentoring – with the Long Island Science Center, a registered 501(c)3 organization determined to bring science and technology opportunities to young Islanders.

The partnership is meant to bolster existing LISC programming that aims to develop tech skills in eager schoolkids, with ULC Robotics weighing in on such entertaining – and professionally promising – subjects as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 3D printing and Augmented Reality, among others.

The collaboration is a win-win for the students and tomorrow’s workforce, and firmly in the museum/learning center’s wheelhouse, according to Long Island Science Center Executive Director Cailin Kaller, who’s “incredibly grateful for the opportunity … to broaden our curricula.”

Kaller sees a vital mission here, citing low percentages of boys and girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and research data suggesting most high schoolers already have an idea about their futures – combined, “a problem for education and the future workforce.”

“We need STEM education to develop the next generation of innovators and to train our future workforce,” the executive director added. “Breaking down STEM barriers and sparking early interest is essential.

“We look forward to working with private partners and community organizations to get as much student participation as possible in these innovative, new programs.”

Pipeline: Robots may inspect them, but skilled workers fill them.

For ULC Robotics, a circa-2001 energy R&D firm that’s established itself in domestic and European markets as a leading manufacturer of inspect-and-repair automatons for natural-gas pipelines, branching out is nothing new.

The innovative Hauppauge manufacturer has explored numerous verticals over the years – sometimes literally, including 2016 Federal Aviation Administration authorization to operate commercial UAVs below 400 feet in altitude anywhere in U.S. airspace, and a 2018 deal with PSEG Long Island to inspect power lines and other elevated equipment.

Jodi Giglio: Youth movement.

As it hovers and rolls along the leading edge of the rapidly developing Robots as a Service trend, the benefits of the private-public partnership with the LISC are obvious – and also critically important, according to ULC Robotics founder and CEO Gregory Penza, who’s happy to bolster the regional talent pool but also notes larger global stakes.

“As technological innovation continues to play a critical role in both the local and global economies, we need to foster curiosity and excitement surrounding STEM,” Penza said in a statement. “Our goal is to help spark creativity and engage with children from a young age, allowing them to establish a passion for technology that can translate into lifelong careers.”

That also was the goal of Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who facilitated the introduction between ULC Robotics and the LISC “to provide the beginnings of a workforce pipeline,” according to a statement from the councilwoman’s office.

“I am dedicated to advance and support our youth by creating a path to high-paying local jobs that will provide youth with options to raise a family here,” Giglio said Tuesday. “I am so proud to have brought together the Long Island Science Center and ULC Robotics on this collaboration to achieve our mutual goals.”