By Irfan Shariff
Northwest Asian Weekly
Emmanuel Christian Oshitoye (who goes by his middle name), 14, spent last summer improving his grinds and slides. He also developed an idea to improve the skateboard itself.
The Lakota Middle School student, of Filipino and Nigerian ancestry, has been skateboarding for eight years. As he became more skilled, he noticed that most skateboards don’t offer the proper resistance in performing intense feats that he and his friends are capable of.
“Loose trucks tend to lose control. Tight trucks allow for more flip tricks and grinding,” said Oshitoye.
His design removes excess parts to allow for a tighter truck, which according to EXPN.com, an ESPN affiliate, is the hardware that is comprised of the axle and base plate mounted to the underside of the board.
Oshitoye’s idea was supported by Carlos Veliz, CEO and founder of PCSI Design in Bothell, who invited the teen to discuss his design to a group of engineers last fall. “His articulation of the product was quite impressive,” said Veliz. “It’s a good vision that he has.”
The initial meeting led to more discussion around Oshitoye’s design. Oshitoye is to start an official internship that will begin this summer. PCSI’s internship program is open to students as young as those in middle school, but Veliz said that Oshitoye is the youngest intern he will have to date.
“If he has the openness and vision, he’ll be able to absorb this,” said Veliz, who is already impressed with the giant strides Oshitoye has made in the few weeks he’s met with him.
“He’s done pretty impressive things in this short period of time,” said Veliz. Veliz, who began his career as a designer with Atari in the early 1980s, attributes his success to a mentor that reached out to him while he studying at a community college. The mentor, who was also a person of color, helped guide Veliz toward his current role in engineering.
“In today’s economy, business owners must [put forth their] best effort to build a bridge between the education system and businesses. If we can do that, we can work with the community to bring excitement back.”
Although Veliz’s internship program is geared toward any youth with interest and capabilities, he tends to “target youth that may not always have the best chance to find the opportunity — or someone to listen to them.”
Eleonor Oshitoye, Christian’s mother, a business development counselor with Seattle Public Schools, contacted Veliz, who she knew through business contacts, after seeing her son’s enthusiasm about his skateboard project.
“I’m hoping because of [the internship], he prides himself more [on his] school[work],” said Eleonor. “Every family has one kid that likes studying and one that does not,” she said. “He likes to tinker. He is more hands on.” Emanuel’s sister Jazzmine, a Seattle Pacific University student, takes the former role in the family.
Eleonor, a Philippines native, immigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old. She has not had the opportunity to visit since she left, but keeps the culture alive with her children. When saying goodbye, Oshitoye and his sister perform the mano po, a traditional Filipino salutation that involves touching the forehead to an elder’s right hand.
“I’d like to learn Tagalog. I have Filipino friends that teach me,” said Oshitoye, who dreams of visiting the Philippines.
He feels that his ethnic background doesn’t bother him in his everyday life. “I haven’t really dealt much with people that judge [me]. It makes me stronger, if I deal with [prejudices] in a positive way.”
Eleonor feels her children are well-rounded. “They don’t look at their background as a handicap.”
“Christian’s father is very supportive of him,” said Eleonor of her ex-husband, a military professional born in Manchester, U.K., but who is of Nigerian descent. They divorced three years ago.
Oshitoye, with the help of PCSI Design’s engineers, has already designed his mechanism using SolidWorks (a professional engineering software), built an initial prototype of his new mechanism, and applied for a patent to secure his idea. He also had the opportunity to describe his idea to his fellow peers at a school assembly.
“It was stressful being in front of my classmates,” said Oshitoye. He feels presenting to them was harder than presenting to the engineers at PCSI, which “wasn’t as difficult as [he] thought.”
“I’m hoping to work out all the kinks in the prototype,” said Oshitoye. “Hopefully, sometime in the summer, I can test it out.” ♦
Irfan Shariff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.