Engineering students at the University of Toronto built a knuckleball pitching machine

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In a report for the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy details how engineering students at the University of Toronto built a knuckleball pitching machine — the world’s first. Their goal was to be able to throw the same knuckleball every time, but they were unable to do so.

The project gave the students a greater appreciation for Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey.

“The amount of control you need to throw the same knuckleball every time is unbelievable,” said Martin Côté, who along with Gordon, Jessica Tomasi and Queenie Yuan built the prototype as part of their fourth-year design project — adapting a regular pitching machine with PVC tubes, motors and a series of sensors that modulated the velocity and automatically set the ball in the same orientation before every pitch.

“The mystery of the knuckleball prevailed over our efforts,” said Professor David Sinton, a baseball-loving mechanical engineer who came up with the idea and supervised the project.

Dickey started for the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon against the Tigers but lost after giving up five runs on 11 hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 2/3 innings. The knuckleballer is 3-9 on the year with a 5.02 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and a 64/42 K/BB ratio in 107 2/3 innings.