Zach is an American auto race car driver currently competing in the U.S. F2000 National Championship for Andretti Autosport; a published author ('99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16'); and the National Spokesperson for FocusDriven, which advocates cell-free driving. But it was Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day at his dad's IT Solutions Company that encouraged this young entrepreneur to create and design a cell phone App, urTXT, that helps save lives.
A real-world education
Instead of sitting in the corner of his father's office playing video games and making the rounds of the secretaries' candy bowls, Zach chose to quietly observe and take it all in. "My day was very educational. I learned how much planning goes into a project and how every little detail counts and can make a mountain of difference," Zach says.
Zach spent the day learning about project management and how technology affects us every day. Seeing the similarities between his own world of racing and his father's world of boardrooms taught him the importance of "having a strategy and a vision to get your work finished and a plan to move others toward that vision," he says.
An idea is born
Zach left "work" that day in April 2010 not only "with the knowledge about how to manage projects and how you have to pay attention to every little detail to be successful at something," but also with an idea: a phone app that would motivate users to be safer drivers.
So, he created urTXT, a free app that will automatically respond to a text message while you are driving so that you can remain focused on driving. Zach says he even uses it when he's in the race car at the track and other times when he can't respond to messages. It comes with 10 pre-set messages, or you can record your own.
This app is impressive because it is simple and obvious, plus there is a huge need for it. The fact that urTXT was designed by a 16-year-old who downloaded the Droid Software Development Kit (SDK) adds to the allure of it, as well the turnaround time between the inspiration for the app (April 2010) and its launch (that summer).
When you add his other endeavors -- his work as a 10th-grade honor student, hanging out with friends, playing with his dog, Annie, and training on the race track -- you realize that CNN was right in naming him one of the most intriguing people of 2010.
On the innovation fast-track
The innovation did not stop there though. In a blog posting dated Feb. 28, 2011, Zach speaks about the creation of his own app company. "While creating the phone app, I learned this is something I really enjoy doing in my free time. Having said that, I created a company, ZaAPP, for building these types of applications. I just secured my first client and I'm creating a business application for them, but I think it would be really cool to have the opportunity to create one around racing, especially for my team Andretti Autosport."To keep the inspirational juices flowing, Zach says that he likes to go to work with his dad often, "just to be in a good productive environment."
Not every kid will enjoy parading through their parents' offices for Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and many will roll their eyes and potentially embarrass their parents; but at the same time, another day at the office for Dad or Mom can mean a whole lot more to a young mind like Zach's.
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