Many times a high school student upon returning to fall classes is asked to share an answer to the question: “What did you do this summer vacation?”

At the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, the answers varied from traveling abroad to remaining on campus as an MSSM summer counselor and everything in between. Seniors Sadie Allen, from Camden, and Daniel Alfonsetti, from Lewiston, spent four weeks this summer on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Allen and Alfonsetti were successful applicants to the newly-created program at MIT called Beaver Works Summer Institute, which was also supported by the Lincoln Laboratories in Massachusetts. The goal of the camp was to program autonomous vehicles which culminated in a "race" along a model of Boston’s Formula One course, with its many hairpin turns and subsequent speed changes.

In addition to MSSM, BWSI participants hailed from all over the United States representing some of the nation’s most recognized secondary schools, including Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, Bergen County Academies in New Jersey, Bronx School of Science, NYC and other National Consortium of Secondary STEM member schools along with several Boston area day schools.

Both Allen and Alfonsetti resided and boarded at nearby Boston University. Alfonsetti favorably compared the accommodation to MSSM mentioning “the food was good, not necessarily any better but they did offer more options, and the 10-minute shuttle through the streets of Boston was an interesting way to see the city”. Each weekend, the students had further opportunity to explore Boston including Fenway Park (Boston lost to the Twins), the New England Aquarium and of course, the Museum of Science.

When asked if this experience would provide any future involvement for them, Alfonsetti quickly stated: “Sadie and I are considering tutoring any future MSSM Beaver Work applicants as it is open only to rising seniors. I also continue to participate in computer programming with Dr. Hamlin and this experience has helped me reinforce my passion to become a programmer.”

Allen agreed: “My passion to study computer science has been solidified by this experience. The entire experience was amazing! Naturally, we learned a lot about autonomous car programming, but what I also found of great value were the numerous presentations conducted by MIT professors. It was fascinating to hear about miniature satellites and other topics, but I was really impressed with "Bio-mimetics," which designs robots based on biological examples such as a cheetah. The robot was able to mimic its movements and could actually leap!”