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Truckee Teen builds soccer playing robot

Paul Raymore
Ryan Bavetta shows his technical skills in this submitted photo.
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Truckee High graduate Ryan Bavetta has always enjoyed building things, so it didn’t surprise anyone when he applied for and was accepted into the Discover Mechanical Engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston in August.

Arranged as a pre-orientation program for incoming freshmen at MIT, the Discover Mechanical Engineering program gives students a chance to earn valuable hands-on experience with a mechanical engineering project, specifically, the chance to build a soccer-playing robot.

Approximately 30 students participated in the DME program this year. When the students were not busy building their robots, they had the opportunity to tour many of the MIT mechanical engineering labs as well as other commercial labs and sites in the Boston area.

For the soccer competition, Bavetta and three other students were teamed with a mentor, who helped each of them design and build their own robot. After finishing construction, the team competed against other four-person teams for bragging rights.

According to Bavetta, his team’s strategy for winning the tournament quickly went out the window once play began. “Going in to the tournament we tried to think of some strategy, but it turned out that in the competition it was more of a death match, a destruction derby, where everyone just ran into each other until the last one moving took the ball into the goal,” Bavetta said.

Although Bavetta’s group did not win, the Truckee teen gained valuable experience with the tools available in the MIT mechanical engineering labs. Before the DME program, Bavetta had never built anything so robotic before. With the help of Truckee High teacher Kevin Coleman, Bavetta had built and operated a radio station at Truckee High and designed and built confetti cannons that were used in last year’s graduation ceremony.

“Ryan is very innovative, very bright and very talented,” Coleman said. “I know he’ll take MIT by storm.”

Bavetta has since started classes at MIT, and has been having fun so far. He is currently enrolled in physics, calculus, chemistry and technical writing, and while he is not required to choose a major until his sophomore year, Bavetta is currently leaning toward mechanical engineering.

As for the robot he built, he is hoping to iron out some of the technical difficulties he experienced during the competition when he can find some free time.


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