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Seneca Valley senior's project a cut above the rest

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Corey McCoy, 18, a senior at Seneca Valley, created a remote-controlled lawnmower for his senior project. McCoy, who plans to study engineering in college, spent nearly five months designing and building his invention, which he has also outfitted with a snow plow.

Seneca Valley senior Corey McCoy tackled a graduation project that looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie.

McCoy, 18, who built a remote controlled lawnmower, wasn't interested in constructing a device that was all show but no substance. With the power to carry several hundred pounds, a hairpin-turning radius, a full-sized mower deck and a receiver and transmitter that will operate from up to 100 yards away, the result is something unique – Mowbot.

McCoy's interest in such a project was sparked during his sophomore year when he took Stephen Wolfe's robotics class at Seneca Valley.

“I love to build things,” said McCoy, who has already been accepted to Penn State but is waiting to hear from his first choice, Maine Maritime Academy, where he would like to study petroleum engineering. “Mr. Wolfe was my mentor on the project and I owe a lot to him.”

McCoy and Wolfe would often discuss the design. Mowbot took nearly five months to create. Wolfe has been amazed by how the enterprising student absorbs knowledge.

“Most kids want a cookbook type of project with the steps all laid out for them,” Wolfe said. “That's not what Corey wanted at all. He wanted to challenge himself.”

The invention, which uses two motors from an electric wheelchair, has enough power to handle even the most stubborn terrain. He already has plans on using his existing design to create a yard machine that could work as a remote controlled snowplow, seeder, and even a wheelbarrow that can dump its contents.

“I really enjoy robotics, and whether it's a career or not, I think it will always be something I am involved with,” said McCoy, who works two part-time jobs to pay for his project. “I think the elderly or a disabled person could benefit from using it.”

McCoy didn't simply build this to get credit for his graduation project, he did it because he loves to acquire new skills and then apply those skills to something tangible, his teacher said.

“Corey is the kind of person that I can see doing anything he wants to,” Wolfe said. “He will do great things in his life. He is smart, driven and an all-around great young man. His parents brought him up right.”

Wolfe went on to say that officials at Seneca Valley deserve a lot of credit for having the foresight to spend some money to get technology classes into the district. McCoy is proof that the investment was worth it.

“I learned how to do a lot of this in classes at Seneca Valley. Along with Mr. Wolfe, Mr. (Joseph) Logsdon taught me a lot about engineering and Mr. (Joseph) Ehrenberger showed me how to weld,” said McCoy, who is also an Eagle Scout from Troop 344.

In February, McCoy will take part in the STEM Fair with his invention and is slated to receive a small grant from the district to help fund improvements he has planned for his device.

As for the future of Mowbot, McCoy won't rule anything out. For now, he plans to continue working on improving his design. But don't be surprised to someday see one of McCoy's inventions for sale in a retail store.

“A student like Corey makes choosing this profession all worthwhile for me,” Wolfe said. “He's a stand-out student. He's the kind of young man you will just never forget.”

David McElhinny is the North Bureau Chief with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-772-6362 or at