Thirteen-Year-Old ‘Whiz Kid’ Quin Etnyre Schools MIT Graduates In Electronic Programming

In five years, he hopes he will be attending the Cambridge school for college.

Screenshot via YouTube.com/BBC

Screenshot via YouTube.com/BBC

Quin Etnyre has his own company that manufactures electronic bits for peoples’ pet projects, has taught MIT graduates how to program, and is already fairly confident he will attend the prestigious school himself in a few years.

And he is only 13 years old.

This week the BBC ran a feature about Etnyre’s impressive list of accolades, which outside of operating his own small-scale business venture, Qtechknow, aimed at helping other kids get into electronic programming, includes building a moveable robot that can detect when there is a wall or other structure and move away without the help of a human operator.

In the BBC feature, Etnyre is seen teaching a class to members of the MIT Club of Southern California, a volunteer-run organization that unites alumni and friends of MIT, how to program.

During the session, Etnyre proudly wears a fresh-pressed T-shirt bearing the MIT logo as he explains how Arduino, an open-source electronic prototyping platform—the 13-year-old’s favorite to work with—operates.

Etnyre’s family admits at first they “didn’t get it,” referencing their son’s curious obsession for computer programming, and teaching adults how to do the same—something most kids his age aren’t worried about in their daily lives—but they support him wholeheartedly.

Boston reached out to Etnyre, but his father, Ethan, said he was in school for the day, after “a very busy BBC-filled morning.” But his mother, Karen Mikuni, was happy to discuss her son’s success, saying that Etnyre has been over-booked with adult students trying to get in his classes. “It’s all very exciting.”

Mikuni said her son’s goal of getting into MIT started around the time he launched his business last year, but nothing is set in stone. “That’s all his idea, there is no assurance from MIT, but he has met a lot of good-will people, including some engineers from the school … and he heard that MIT was good for engineering, so he decided that’s where he wanted to go.”

According to Mikuni, Etnyre’s love for electronics, and impressive brain power, started at a young age, and quickly evolved. “All the tech stuff is completely on his own. We are not engineers or anything like that. We knew he had that kind of brain because when he was a toddler he loved to line things up and do puzzles, and we would do math problems when he was three…we just kind of knew he had that brain,” she said. “He thought it was fun.”

As they told the BBC, Etnyre does make time for engaging in typical 13-year-old behaviors, and enjoys other extracurricular activities outside of his science projects.

That being said, he also managed to find a way to fuse his love of electronics with the crude subjects that can often be the focal point of adolescent behaviors: farting.

Etnyre developed a hat and switch combo that allows people to measure the intensity of the methane produced by their flatulence. When someone releases gas, the “fart sensor,” which goes in a persons’ pocket and is made from an Altoids mini-tin, picks up on the methane concentrations, and displays on a hat just how bad it was by activating flashing LED lights connected to the base of the hat.

All of this, of course, is a precursor to his ultimate goals of both attending MIT—which, in his Twitter profile he indicates will be in five years—and landing a good job. “I want to be, like, an educator … and also an engineer,” he said.

Etnyre isn’t alone in his admirable MIT feats at such a young age.

In September, Battushig Myanganbayar, of Ulan Bator, made headlines when he got a perfect score in the MIT Circuits and Electronics course he took through edX. At just 15 years old, the Mongolian student aced the sophomore-level MIT course with the help of his principal, Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin, MIT’s first Mongolian graduate.

  • Bart_simpson

    We should encourage kids like Quin, but we should not misstate his accomplishment (which is some simple D-I-Y hacking that most MIT freshmen can do). Quin should feel encouraged, but he should not feel special. He should feel free to make mistakes and have fun along the way. Make sure its fun!