Tanner Cecchetti has always been a tinkerer, even as a child. His first experiments used simple technology such as tissue and corks to create tiny parachutes. Now, an electrical and computer engineering student at Oregon State, his focus is on mobile technology, and especially jailbroken iPhones.
His interest was encouraged by his mother who initially started her degree in computer science before switching to accounting. She bought him video editing software in fifth grade when Cecchetti was part of a video editing team at school, and she made sure he had a cell phone when he was 10 years old because she wanted him to start playing with that technology. The many hours he spent tinkering with technology lead to success when in high school he earned second place for three years in a row at a state-wide team-based programming competition.
“The coolest thing I've ever done with programming was to write a program that got a couple million downloads, which was super exciting,” Ceccetti said. The program was part of a business to create game cheats for Runescape that he and partners ran for a year in high school.
Also in high school he volunteered to manage the website for Relay for Life of Sherwood, Oregon. It was a project he initially viewed as a way to get some practical experience, but it became more than that.
“It felt good to be involved with that cause, raising money for cancer research, because cancer is what took my dad, so it was personally significant to me,” Cecchetti said. His father passed away when he was in fourth grade.
Although Cecchetti has less time for tinkering as a college student, he found time to create a tweak for jailbroken iPhones that has over 10,000 downloads, and an app that turns an iPhone into a mouse and keyboard for any device. He also designed and built an inexpensive sound effects system using a Raspberry Pi for the submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Technology.
In his first two years at Oregon State, Cecchetti earned scholarships for academic achievement including making the Dean’s list and receiving a scholarship from Pacific Power. “I have to pay for school on my own, so scholarships certainly make it easier for me financially but it also makes my decision to stay in school a lot easier knowing my burden of debt will be less,” he said.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Cecchetti won the 2015 Eta Kappa Nu Sophomore of the Year Award at Oregon State. "Tanner stood out for his commitment to service, academic excellence and passion for problem solving. His impressive personal projects showed he was going above and beyond what was being done in the classroom," said Oregon State Eta Kappa Nu president, Tanner Fiez.
Although Cecchetti’s experience has mostly been in computer programming, he chose to major in electrical and computer engineering because he was interested in learning about hardware which would be more difficult to learn on his own. He initially thought he would pursue a career in designing cell phones but his experiences at Oregon State have opened up more options for him and he is not yet settled on a career path. For now he is content to continue to learn and tinker with technology.
Story by Rachel Robertson