July 27, 2015

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Before a prime-time television audience Bite Force, a robot designed by WPI alumnus Paul Ventimiglia, won ABC's hit television show BattleBots, beating out 24 other teams made up of professional engineers, college students, and amateur robotics designers from around the world.

"I am ecstatic. I have looked up to these competitors as engineering idols for years, so to win is both hugely satisfying and humbling." said Ventimiglia, who received a BA in liberal arts and engineering from WPI in 2012. "The engineering and design skills I developed at WPI have allowed me to continue to be successful in robotics. I hope by competing in such competitions, I can help inspire the next generation of designers."

WPI was the top sponsor of the winning team Bite Force. In addition to Ventimiglia, the team included Jeremiah Jinno, a 2007 WPI graduate in electrical and computer engineering; Travis Covington; Teena Liu; and Cory McBride. During the show’s six week series, competitors built and operated remote-controlled machines designed to fight each other in a combat arena. The ultimate goal was for the robot to survive the battle, but each was also judged on speed, strength, and design elements. The 250-pound Bite Force took top marks in aggression, control, and defense.

This is not Ventimiglia's first big win in robotics competitions. In 2009, while still a student at WPI, he led a university-sponsored team in NASA's Regolith Excavation Challenge. The team’s robot, Moonraker, won the $500,000 top prize. Ventimiglia has also participated in the National Robotics Week at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where he represented WPI and showcased Moonraker. His work on a robotic hand prosthesis was also used as a prototype by a team from WPI that won the prestigious Cornell Cup in 2014.

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"Paul's success in this event does not surprise me at all," said Kenneth Stafford, associate director of Robotics Engineering at WPI who continues to be one of Paul’s mentors. "Besides being one of the most talented mechanical designers and makers I have ever met, he spent his time at WPI focusing on understanding problems, and then solving those problems in the most elegant, simple ways. This is a classic WPI approach, and is reflected in all the robots he has touched."

Bite Force also received support from VEX Robotics, Big Blue Saw, Magmotor, Applied Welding, and Aptyx Designs – Ventimiglia's new company.

• More about Paul Ventimiglia.

• More about WPI’s Robotics Engineering Program.