Teenager represents college in competition

Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Zachary Smith, 17, who has always been interested in inventing, is Augusta Tech's finalist for a leadership award.

Zachary Smith is only 17, but he is already an inventor, a distance runner, a limbo contest winner, and now he can claim to be one of the top technical college students in Georgia.

Zachary was a finalist for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership competition, making him the youngest student from Augusta Technical College to earn that distinction.

He said he was speechless when he learned he would represent Augusta Tech, which he sees as a place for first chances, second chances and all opportunities.

At age 16, he enrolled at Augusta Tech, knowing he couldn't move away and couldn't afford the cost of a large school. Zachary is working on his associate's degree in electronics and computer engineering technology. After his graduation in December, he plans to earn a bachelor's degree from Southern Polytechnic State University and then a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"One thing I learned from Augusta Technical College is there are many paths to the same destination," he said.

His ultimate goal is to start a company that creates environmentally friendly technology to clean the planet and benefit people.

The teenager began inventing at an early age, tinkering with toy blocks and experimenting with whitening tooth paste to make walls whiter.

Those experiences helped foster his creativity and spark an interest in inventing. He has created an MP3 player that goes inside a Teddy bear and a flexible digital photo frame to wrap around your wrist.

Zachary was recognized Thursday as one of five finalists in the GOAL competition, which recognizes the state's top technical college students.

"It is quite an accomplishment for someone his age to have so much ambition," Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam said in a news release.

Zachary is modest about his accomplishments.

"If you have a goal, you can achieve it," he said. "The way the world changes every day, the impossible becomes possible."

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.