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Zane Young
Zane Young is attending Washington State University to study electrical engineering and computer science. (Photo courtesy of Zane Young)

Zane Young loves to build things, and as an incoming freshman at Washington State University, he’s going to build on his love of robotics by studying electrical engineering and computer science.

Young, a graduate of Issaquah High School, has a couple internships under his belt: he worked on medical robots at Johns Hopkins University in 2015, and the past two summers he interned at WatchGuard Technologies in Seattle, where he helped the company prepare for the Black Hat and DEF CON security events in Las Vegas.

Our latest Geek of the Week, Young developed his interest in robotics at an early age.

“I think it all started with my dad living his dreams through me a bit,” Young said. “As far back as I can remember, he would buy ‘me’ any robotics kit he could get his hands on, like Vex and Mindstorms. I eventually outgrew kits and started building my own robots based on Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. I even saved up my money and bought my own TIG welder so that I could weld together frames for my robots. My latest inspiration is BattleBots. Who doesn’t like BattleBots? My dad competed with his friends back on the original show and I hope to compete on my own one day.”

While Young says that most of his robotics, electronics and mechanics education has been self-taught thus far, he’s looking forward to the specialization of topics, tools and resources at the college level.

“I know I have a lot to learn and I can’t wait to dig in!” he said. “I am also looking forward to helping build the WSU RoboSub program and participating in clubs that focus on robotics, cyber security and 3D printing.”

And down the road, Young can already picture where he hopes his education will lead.

“I’m mostly interested in research into the advancement in robotic agility (like the work that Boston Dynamics is doing). Ultimately, I want to work on robots that can perform functions that only humans or animals can perform today, and that can be used in more autonomous ways — like search and rescue.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Zane Young:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I spend as much of my spare time as possible on robotics; CAD, welding, electronics and software. I was fortunate to be part of the Issaquah Robotics Society for the past two years in which we advanced to the First Robotics Competition World Championships both years. My dream job after WSU is to design and build robots.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Robots are not going to revolt and take over the world. At least not in our lifetime.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “Laziness. As Bill Gates said, ‘I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.'”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “The transistor, because it’s the building block for all computational devices.”

Zane Young
(Photo courtesy of Zane Young)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I need lots of space when I work. Everything must be laid out in front of me so that I have easy access to all of my components and tools. The attached picture is my hotel room at DEF CON, in which I am ready for any hardware or software hacking project.”

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Consume lots of caffeine and remember to eat occasionally.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows and occasionally Linux. Never Mac. Never.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Mal Reynolds.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine. That makes the other two easy to access. Plus, that basically makes me the doctor.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “I would build out a lab containing equipment like a CNC mill, lathe, plasma cutter, laser cutter and engraver, pick and place machine, reflow machine and welder. This would give me the tools necessary to build robots.”

I once waited in line for … “a badge.”

Your role models: “Adam Savage: A major advocate of the maker movement. Elon Musk: Space X and Tesla. Enough said.”

Greatest game in history: “Tetris.”

Best gadget ever: “Multi-tool (especially if it includes a spork).”

First computer: “A giant Dell Inspiron laptop.”

Current phone: “*Begrudgingly* an iPhone.”

Favorite app: “Chrome.”

Favorite cause: “Improving the living conditions of tardigrades.”

Most important technology of 2016: “The mainstream availability of consumer virtual reality products.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Batteries that have a very high power density, are quick charging and ultra-high capacity.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Do everything because you want to, not because you have to.”

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