"I always loved to build things, to take them apart and see how things work."
QUINCY — Every year, each vocational program at every school in the state nominates a student for outstanding work in their respective field. This year, it was José Betancourt who took home the top honors at Quincy High School.
"He’s an extraordinary kid,” said engineering instructor Paul Tully, who nominated Betancourt for the award.
For Betancourt, 17, engineering isn't work, but play. In his spare time, he likes to recreate video games or build his own, which requires considerable analysis and coding.
"I always loved to build things, to take them apart and see how things work," he said. "Being able to understand that. . . it fulfills your imagination and allows you to create things you can only dream of otherwise.”
Fifteen nominees stood before a panel of eight professionals and experts in the vocational fields and presented a project. Their efforts included work in fields such as health services, fashion design, culinary arts and plumbing. Betancourt presented a circuit board he had been working on in his engineering design and development class, because he felt it was a "good representation" of the kind of engineering he and his peers do day-to-day, he said.
"There were so many great students that were perfect (for the award)," he said. "I know I've put in a lot of hard work, but everyone has.”
In addition to his classwork, Betancourt has been developing a device that helps people with visual impairments to "see" their surroundings.
He and his teammates — Olivia Fritz-Martinez and Dylan O'Brien — won the Quincy High School science fair in February for programming a smart phone app that connects to a pair of eyeglasses equipped with a camera. The camera takes a photo and sends it to the app, which analyzes the content and translates it into words that the user can hear.
Betancourt is headed to New Haven, Connecticut in the fall to attend Yale University. While continuing his engineering studies, he plans to enroll in the school's ROTC program and after he graduates he will enlist in the Marine Corps.
Betancourt took his oath for the corps last July and plans to work in cybersecurity and intelligence.
"I hope years from now José truly leaves no stone unturned," Tully said. "He stands out with how hard he works, and I know he'll give it everything he has.”
All award recipients will be honored at a ceremony in Worcester next month.
Anastasia E. Lennon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.