Andrew Bugni, a senior at Capital High School, is studying mechanical engineering at Montana State University this fall because it’s the best way he knows how to help people.
Bugni plans to get a graduate degree in aerospace, though he hasn’t decided what his ultimate job would look like yet.
“I want to make the world better, and I think I can do that through engineering,” he said.
In high school, Bugni has taught classes through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, job shadowed at Boeing and other engineering firms, and built parts for NASA in his machining class. At the SkillsUSA state machining competition, Bugni placed second in the competition where students were assigned a design and had to write code for the machine to cut it out. Now Bugni is finishing up a senior project to build a drone.
Bugni said the different opportunities and electives in school helped him go from building things with paper towel rolls as a kid to having a realistic career goal.
“I just love building things,” he said. “From nothing you’ve got to design what you’re going to make. You draw it all up on the computer and then you figure out how you’re going to turn a big block into the parts you have.”
In addition to serving as the chapter president of SkillsUSA for two years, Bugni was also part of the Montana Behavioral Initiative and is the senior class president this year.
Bugni has done break dance, hip hop, jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance for seven years. He teaches classes to people with disabilities at the Cohesion Dance Project. The classes can be therapeutic and help people with disabilities pursue a passion.
“You can dance no matter your ability. You don’t have to be amazing at dance,” Bugni said.
Bugni said he has a disability himself. He’s dyslexic and struggles in his English and reading classes. He mixes up words in sentences and covers part of pages to read a little bit at a time.
“You have to work harder to get the same thing, but I’m willing to do that,” he said.
In eighth grade, Bugni got a major concussion playing football that still has painful symptoms. He had to stay in bed for six months and slowly started taking his core classes again. Four years later, Bugni has a constant headache that varies in severity. No medication touches the pain. Bugni said he stutters more because of his brain damage, but hopes the headaches will continue to lessen as time goes on. In the beginning, his equilibrium and motor skills were off, but remembering dance choreography helped him get back on track.
Bugni has also had two bone cysts removed. One threatened his ability to breathe and the other, located on his jaw, left him with permanent nerve damage after it was removed. The surgery left Bugni numb and unable to chew on one side of his mouth.
But Bugni’s attitude has stayed positive.
“Nothing in life that’s worth it is easy,” he said. “I’m a stubborn person. I don’t like to think I’m not as good as other people.”
In college, Bugni said he knows he will have to do things like check in with professors during office hours, spend more time working on assignments than some of his peers and at times ask for help. He also knows that working hard has paid off so far.
“I’m willing to work as hard as I can, and hopefully they understand that and see who I am,” he said.