June 27, 2005 — When 15-year-old Tristian Hannah learned he'd been invited to the National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology, he wasn't as excited as you might think. But then he found out who would be speaking at the event: Shawn Fanning, the founder and developer of Napster; Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality; and other leaders in the field of computers and technology.
According to his father, that was all Tristian needed to know.
"He went on the Internet and looked at who would be there and at past speakers. He said, 'that's the guy from Napster,'" said Tristian's father. "Then he said, 'ok I want to go.'"
Tristian, who just completed 10th grade at St. Croix Central High School, is the son of Sgt. Thomas Hannah, of the V.I. Police Department, and Esther C. James.
The National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology is an annual 10-day program that brings together the most gifted high school students with top-level educators and industry professionals from institutions like Apple, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Oracle, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.
From June 27 until July 6, Tristian will be one of 1,800 U.S. high school students gathered in San Jose, Calif.
"The National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology provides an opportunity for tomorrow's innovators, like Tristian Hannah, to build upon and add to their skills, while also receiving inspiration and direction from today's technology leaders," said Donna Snyder, executive director of NYLF, in a press release.
"Many of these students are already making their mark in this exciting career field. The forum helps them become better directed and better connected as they go about finding the right fit within the world of technology."
When Tristian graduates from high school, he plans to study computer engineering in college. "My interest in robotics started when I was in elementary school," writes Tristian in a letter. But according to his father it began much earlier than that.
"We have so many robots in his room. I bought him two robots for Christmas and his birthday when he was seven. I just watched him. He sat and put those things together. He changed the configuration of the manufacturer and did it his own way," said Sgt. Hannah.
The interest continued into elementary school when Tristian and his team entered a national robotics competition sponsored by NASA. The young team's mission was to clear an area to build a community on Mars using their robot to remove boulders and debris. Tristian came up with the idea to add a hopper to take the boulders, and their robot worked quickly — the area of 12 cubic feet was cleared in less than four minutes.
"They didn't know at the time they were competing against high school and junior high students," said Sgt. Hannah. "They built another robot for the school — they called it Dexter and they gave him a voice."
Since then Tristian has competed in several science fairs that he fits in between other extracurricular activities. He has been a member of the St. Croix Blue Marlins swim team for seven years, has won several awards and trophies in his age group, and was named Blue Marlin Male Swimmer of the Year in 2003.
"I have been a member of the St. Croix Central High School band and Junior Jazz band for the past two years, and I plan to continue with this program and hopefully to continue in college with playing the clarinet," said Tristian in a letter.
In March, Tristian was inducted into the Plato National Honor Society with a 3.85 grade point average. He is also enrolled in a Scholastic Aptitude Preparation Program sponsored by the ICC Prosser Foundation. "This program has helped me and other students to be better prepared to sit the SAT examination and improve test scores," he said. Hannah said his son was chosen to participate in NYLF based on his preliminary SAT science scores.
According to the forum's Web site, students actively engage in workshops, product demonstrations, campus visits and tech-industry encounters. Students at the forum work to develop solutions to real-world dilemmas.
His father says Tristian will fit in just fine.
"He has surprised me quite often with the things he's been able to accomplish at school," said Sgt. Hannah. "Swimming, band, he's a remarkable young man. He's determined, calm and cool."
For more information about the National Youth Leadership Forum, visit its Web site.
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