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Utah teen's robot wins national competition

Matthew Ettinger, 15, works on his robot, Jeffrey, during the Technology Student Association VEX Robotics Competition in Baltimore, Md., on July 1.
Matthew Ettinger, 15, works on his robot, Jeffrey, during the Technology Student Association VEX Robotics Competition in Baltimore, Md., on July 1. Photo: Photo by Megan Ettinger

A lifetime of love for putting things together propelled Matthew Ettinger, 15, of the American Fork 24th Ward, American Fork Utah North Stake, to first place at the Technology Student Association VEX Robotics Competition in Baltimore, Md., on July 1.

Joined by teammates Kyle Williams and Thomas Hooper from Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs, Utah, Matthew's robot, Jeffrey, bested 23 other bots from across the country.

"I just like making stuff and working with my hands," Matthew said.

Jeffrey beat out 23 other bots for the top prize.
Jeffrey beat out 23 other bots for the top prize. Photo: Photo by Megan Ettinger

Jeffrey competed head-to-head with other robots in two-minute matches to push foam balls over a 12-inch wall. With Matthew and his team at the controls, Jeffrey finished the competition undefeated, 14-0.

Matthew's mother, Megan Ettinger, said she first noticed her son's love of tinkering when he was 4 or 5 years old. Since then, she has seen him grow from building rockets out of cardboard in the backyard to building rocket engines that topped a state science fair.

Sister Ettinger said it sometimes wasn't easy to put up with Matthew's messes early on. Eventually, though, she stopped bugging him to throw his "junk" away.

"He knows what he wants and he's willing to put forth the time and effort to do it," she said. "We recognize that what he's doing is valuable."

Matthew said his goal is to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become an aerospace engineer.

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