PA Cyber nurtures budding tech mogul
Apr 5, 2019
A PA Cyber teen entrepreneur and tech enthusiast is on his way to becoming an innovator in custom guitar design.
At the age of 16, Jaden Baptista of Felton, has already launched a new business that uses 3D printing technology to build guitar parts and accessories.
Baptista’s interest in technology started early when, at 7 years old, he got a computer as a gift from his aunt and started teaching himself to code. In seventh grade, he began learning Raspberry Pi, a mini computer that enables users to explore circuit building and programming.
In 2014, PA Cyber Director of Innovation, Joel Cilli, offered a Raspberry Pi workshop entitled “Circuit Building and Coding.” Baptista signed up.
“It really helped me learn how to code more,” he said. “I had already been coding a little, but it sort of helped me to learn the concept behind it. You have to tell the computer what to do, but in a very specific way because it doesn’t have the power to interpret what you mean like humans can.”
Over the years, Baptista has taken all Cilli’s classes and workshops — ranging from 3D design to laser cutting. He is also a member of Cilli’s cyber security team, which participates in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. Baptista also works on his own to learn about technology, and even built his own operating system for fun.
His parents, Jennifer and Jose Baptista, said they do what they can to feed his interest. While his mother admits coding is “over her head,” she says she also knows it has a place in modern society.
“If that’s one of the skills that he is going to have going forward and he wants to develop further, I think it’s excellent,” she said. “He can branch off and do many, many things with that ability in terms of work after high school.”
3D Guitar Parts
Last summer, Cilli told Baptista’s parents about a 3D printing festival in Maryland, about an hour away from where the family lives in York County.
“I was attending for myself, and let them know about it since they’re nearby,” Cilli said. “They met up with me, and I got to meet his whole family. While we were there, Jaden talked to all these 3D printer companies, and one of them gave him a 3D printer kit to build his own 3D printer.”
Ideas started to sprout. When his uncle expressed an interest in having a piece made for a guitar he owns, Baptista, who has also played guitar as long as he’s been coding, offered to give it a try. The project for his uncle’s guitar was a success.
“It would have cost him a lot of money to buy and he didn’t exactly have the money to buy it, so I tried my hand at it,” Baptista said. “It didn’t turn out well the first time, but I got better at it and I realized I really liked doing it.”
Baptista’s technology interests, combined with Cilli getting him into 3D printing, started him on a natural progression to new business opportunities. Last year, he designed a guitar as a 3D model and Cilli printed it in six attachable sections. Baptista has attached the sections andplans to paint the guitar this spring. It’s fully functional.
These days, Baptista is building his own guitar pickups with 3D printed parts. Pickups are electromagnetic devices that transform the vibration of guitar strings into an electronic signal, the PA Cyber junior explained.
“This year he’s been talking to me about designs for guitar pickups that he’s looking to sell in a partnership with another company,” Cilli said.
Baptista also has a little bit of a customer base after having joined a few Facebook groups begun by people looking for guitar parts and to generally chat about guitars.
His mom said she watches out for him on Facebook and keeps tabs on the conversations in the guitar groups, because he’s underage. She is always impressed by his knowledge.
“He’s relied on as an information source by a lot of them because he has quite a bit of knowledge. He’s built that up and made it his goal to learn as much as he can about it.”
Why PA Cyber
Baptista’s mom, Jennifer, said her son has always been gifted, even reading on his own at age 3. He started school at 4 years old after testing showed he was advanced, and she thought he would be bored with her at home one more year. She and her husband decided to take him out of the traditional brick-and-mortar school to try PA Cyber, and he loved it. He has a lot of great teachers at PA Cyber who have been supportive of him, she said.
Baptista is on track to graduate PA Cyber a year early. He plans to pursue a degree in computer science and possibly teach technology. He will likely attend a local community college until he is able to get his driver’s license in January.
About three years ago, Mike Hissam, PA Cyber’s director of gifted and talented, said the school started a pilot program allowing students to teach courses, with his assistance as their facilitator. Baptista wrote and submitted “Guitar Electronics,” a proposal based on his passion for guitars, to teach fellow gifted students.
Hissam said the online course covered simple wiring, complicated circuits, diagrams, sound waves and other components of the electric guitar. The course also explained how some famous guitarists, such as Eddie Van Halen, specially wire their guitars to sound a specific way.
Hissam said the result was that students were extremely receptive to Baptista as their instructor and they learned a great deal about the electronics of a guitar.
“Throughout my experience assisting Jaden with the course, I quickly learned that he is a multitalented young man with a gift for creating and delivering instruction,” Hissam said.
After class, the two would chat and, through those discussions, Hissam found out about Baptista’s entrepreneurial spirit and learned more about his guitar workshop and other side projects he was working on, including a social media platform to fit the needs of cyber and homeschooled students.
Using specialty software, Baptista this year began running a group with other students to create the platform, Sidus, the Latin word for star or constellation. The goal is to be able to communicate with one another and teachers without having to use traditional social media. One day Baptista wants to sell the program or the rights to use it to PA Cyber.
Amie Waddell, Baptista’s gifted coordinator since 2014, has had the opportunity to work with the beta testing team for the project and said she is blown away by how far the program has come. Baptista and his team are incorporating advice from students and teachers to develop a program with real potential, she said.
Waddell said Baptista is “an extraordinary young man and remarkable student,” and she believes he will find success in all his future endeavors.
“It’s important that we allow students like Jaden opportunities to express themselves and exercise their talents. Jaden has the potential, ambition, and forward-thinking skills to be the next Zuckerberg or Jobs, and it’s important that we as educators support students like him and not ignore their talents.”
Casie Colalella / email@example.com
About PA Cyber
Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.