Senior finds success in the field of robotics


courtesy of Jason Sylvestre

Sylvestre's skill for robotics has landed him multiple opportunities, like assistance from company ATK.

Mike Ryan and Max Preus

Senior Jason Sylvestre scoffs at the idea of Wall-E. Instead, he uses his engineering skills to construct rescue robots capable of saving people, conscious or unconscious, from dangerous situations. His robotics prowess has landed him various awards, scholarships and funding opportunities to support his already incredibly refined piece of machinery.

“Basically they are remotely operated robots that enter dangerous situations such as a natural disaster or fire, and they go into these situations and locate people who need rescuing, provide them with nourishment and fluids, and then extract them from that situation without any direct human aid,” said Sylvestre.

Sylvestre’s inspiration for going into the robotics field all started from the multimedia, video game console called “The Cube”, thanks to his classmate senior Ben Lenington. “I thought that was very interesting, so I started doing some more research on my own on computers and electronics and stuff like that. I started building my robot sophomore year,” said Sylvestre.

From that point on, Sylvestre took the idea and ran with it. Throughout all of engineering class at school, Sylvestre, despite numerous obstacles and failures, dedicated his time to perfect his robot. “One really disheartening day was actually last year right around this time. I had been working on it constantly. I literally would get home from school at three, and I would work until 11 at night. I finally got to the point to test the track system, and there were major problems with it that caused the tracks to derail and fall off, so that was really heartbreaking,” said Sylvestre.

In the past years, Sylvestre constructed a robot that pulled an extraction bed behind it with people having to roll over onto it. In a continuation of his first robot, the science “wiz-kid” currently works on the upgraded version of the first robot. “It has been a year since I first began designing the prototype, so it was nice to know that all the hours I put in really paid off. This new project can actually pick people up and drag them out, and this one is engineered a lot better because I have more resources and better expertise now,” said Sylvestre.

I’ve always been interested in how things work. When I was younger I used to build contraptions and devices and I took apart microwaves and stuff like that so it’s nice to see how far I’ve come since then.”

— Jason Sylvestre

His skills in the field have secured him various opportunities with some very credible companies in the engineering world. “The company is called ATK, and they offered me financial and technical assistance to continue my work. Another company that helped me was Checker Machine Inc., [which] provided fabrication help,” said Sylvestre.

Along with competing in many state and regional competitions, Sylvestre has managed to win national awards for his work on numerous projects. After competing in the Twin Cities Regional and State Science and Engineering Fair, he received a silver medal in the International Sustainable World Energy Engineering and Environment Project (ISWEEEP) competition, making him part of the top 20 percent amongst more than 500 aspiring scientists and engineers from more than 60 countries. In addition, Sylvestre won honors including two merits from Yale University, 3M Innovation Award, Alliant Techsystems Award, and seven other prestigious awards. “I’ve always been interested in how things work. When I was younger I used to build contraptions and devices and I took apart microwaves and stuff like that so it’s nice to see how far I’ve come since then,” said Sylvestre.

At this point, Sylvestre continues to focus on finishing the actual robot itself and the implementation process to hopefully continue his success at upcoming competitions. “This year, I would like to place highly at this Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, [also known as] Intel ISEF,” said Sylvestre.

After graduating from BSM, Sylvestre looks forward to study electrical engineering with a minor in computer science. His future plans for the robotic project, however, remains unquestioned. “If the company is interested in implementing it, of course I will continue with the project. It’s hard to say at this point,” said Sylvestre.