St. Thomas School of Engineering student Austin Otto ’18 has earned $10,000 to use toward his education. The scholarship is the grand prize of the Cici’s Pizza “Stuff Dreams Are Made Of” contest.

The contest involved submitting a photo taken inside a Cici’s restaurant along with a 50-word description of how the scholarship would help a contestant achieve his or her dream.

In his submission, Otto wrote “Engineering has been my dream since picking up my first Lego brick. I have a strong interest in 3D printing and manufacturing/materials. Since I am paying for college myself, a scholarship would help me focus on the rigorous engineering curriculum instead of how to pay my next tuition bill.”

Otto submitted this photo taken in the Cici's location in Rochester, Minnesota.

Otto submitted this photo taken in the Cici’s location in Rochester, Minnesota.

Darin Harris, CEO of Cici’s Pizza, surprised Austin with a $10,000 check Sept. 2 in Owens Science Hall. To maintain the element of surprise, Harris posed as a St. Thomas Newsroom writer who was asking Otto about his work with 3-D printing.

A few minutes into the faux interview, Harris revealed who he was and Otto’s parents presented him with a giant check.

According to Harris, Otto’s submission stood out among the 1,165 entries. “We liked your passion for engineering and your determination for education,” Harris said.

Otto first heard about the contest from his mother, Kristi Otto (a 1985 St. Thomas alumna), who saw information about it on Facebook. The fact that the nearest Cici’s restaurant was 90 minutes away in Rochester, Minnesota, was not a deterrent to the Twin Cities-based student. “He and a buddy decided to take a road trip,” said Kristi, noting that the two had not seen much of each other over the summer and enjoyed the time catching up.

After presenting Otto with the scholarship, Harris watched as Otto demonstrated a 3-D printer in the Facilities and Design Center lab. According to Kristi, her son has a passion for building. “He saved his money and bought his first 3-D printer when he was a sophomore in high school,” she said. “Then he used it to make parts to build more.”

Of his time in the St. Thomas engineering lab, Kristi said, “He certainly found a home here.”

Austin Otto (Mechanical Engineering) far right, talks with CiCi's Pizza CEO Darin Harris, far left, as Engineering Professor Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman, back left, and Lindsey Bollig (Mechanical Engineering), back right, look on on September 2, 2015 in the Facilities and Engineering Building on south campus in St. Paul. Austin Otto won $10,000.00 through the CiCi's Pizza Photo Scholarship Contest. Otto wrote an essay and snapped a picture of himself in a CiCi's Pizza restaurant. He initially thought he was being interviewed about his 3D Printing engineering research and was surprised by his parents with the check after CiCi's CEO Darin Harris announced that he had won the scholarship.

Otto, far right, demonstrates a 3-D printer to Harris, far left, along with mechanical engineering professor Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman, back left, and lab partner Lindsey Bollig.

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