Paducah Tilghman High School senior Jake Taylor first realized he had an interest in computer engineering when he built a computer at home as a freshman, after watching YouTube videos. He “got the gist of it” from there.
“It showed me how big of an asset it was to know how to build a computer and have a computer,” he said. “It sort of lead me down a path of trying to figure out the best way to teach how to build a computer and how to get other people access to a computer.”
The 17-year-old Paducah student started “Create a Computer,” a 501c3 nonprofit.” It raised donations for computer parts and organized camps to teach computer building and maintenance skills.
“At the beginning of 2020, I planned to host a project at Elmwood Court where kids came in and built computers in some fashion,” Taylor said.
“The project changed a little bit after COVID hit and I realized how badly Elmwood needed new computers, so my idea was to bring kids in from Elmwood Court and teach them how to build computers that would be installed at the Elmwood Court computer lab.”
The final product was a roughly 10-person camp with youth from around the community who came in and built the new computers installed in the lab at Elmwood Court, which replaced decade old computers.
“We also hosted a camp at the (Paducah) Innovation Hub at Tilghman for kids who build laptops for virtual classes and college, and we plan to host a few more of those as well,” he added.
Taylor said building a computer is more like LEGOs than people may think.
“Me being a kid that grew up playing with LEGO sets and building things like puzzles, or anything else like that, I was totally drawn to the idea of building a system where a part goes in a certain place and then you get a finished product that you’re able to use — and to see turn on, and lights flash,” he said.
As of right now, Taylor plans to attend either Purdue University or Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and major in computer engineering. Both schools are in Indiana and have “great” programs for the major.
Taylor, son of Laura and Michael Taylor of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Every week since last fall, The Sun has profiled 32 high school seniors who were chosen from a group of nominees for Teen of the Week recognition. Around the end of the school year, a selection committee will name one of the students as Teen of the Year. It comes with a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
The two award recipients will be announced at a later date.
At Paducah Tilghman, Taylor has earned a weighted cumulative GPA above 4.0. He’s an AP Scholar and received a 31 composite ACT score. He participated in the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s Youth LEAD program as a junior. He also received a Daughters of the American Revolution Youth Citizenship Medal.
Through school, Taylor served as team captain for cross country and received multiple Most Valuable Player recognitions. He’s part of the track and field team, and co-president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He previously was part of the speech team.
“I think why I like running so much is that running is all about how hard you want to push yourself. So, if you want to get to the next level in running, it’s all about being crazy enough to get there,” he said.
“I always saw running as a sport where I felt like I could progress without any barriers and with it being up to me how good I want to be at it. I love the team environment of both cross country and track.”
Taylor said he’s spent much of time training, during the past few months. The track team’s goal this year is to win the state championship.
“As one of the only seniors on the distance team right now, I get the opportunity to run with a lot of the young talent on the team, and kind of show some of them the ropes and watch some of them get faster than I’m ever going to be, so it’s fun,” he said.
With graduation next month, Taylor reflected on a different kind of senior year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been “really impressed” with how administrators handled adversity this year, including Paducah Tilghman Principal Allison Stieg, and how they focused on seniors and got them a lot of the things they normally have, such as prom and graduation. He’s looking ahead to the future too.
“I’m going to miss lots of people from Paducah when I’m in college, but I really look forward to what happens with an engineering degree and what college is like,” he said. “It’s definitely both sad and exciting.”
By: Kelly Farrell