Chantz Yanagida has started his own business, ELab Repairs.Chantz Yanagida graduated from UTC this spring with a degree in mechanical engineering, but the future path of his life traces back to sixth-grade, a path that includes work with local, national and international companies and organizations.
He gives a lot of credit to the College of Engineering and Computer Science and its Student Success Center. “Academically, it gave me a lot of confidence. I reached out to every single professor in that building. I had every level of support.”
The center, meanwhile, “really kills it” by forming relationships with local companies and schools, both bringing them to campus and visiting them, to show “some of the cool stuff at UTC,’” he says. “The relationship building was top-notch, spectacular.”
Chantz is always smiling,” says Julie David, director of the Success Center. “His positive attitude, passion for learning and enthusiasm for community involvement demonstrate his dedication to making a positive difference in Chattanooga and influencing real-world change.
“On numerous occasions, I have witnessed Chantz shine as he displays his creations and explains the experiences involved with each project.”
Yanagida’s future life “adventure,” as he calls it, started about a year ago when he heard that his former high school, Hixson High, had been chosen as one of 16 locations for a Volkswagen eLab, a program started in 2017 in Hamilton County schools. Training the next generation of researchers to tackle technological problems yet to come, the labs contain such tools as robotics, laser cutters, automated manufacturing equipment, microcomputers and 3D printers.
Hearing that the equipment in the labs was being used for hours and hours, he knew the machines would soon need repair from simple wear-and-tear. Wanting to help, he eventually wound up at the eLab in Red Bank High School.
“Only to find out that the specialist in charge was none other than my sixth-grade computer science teacher, Matthew Craig,” Yanagida says.
Craig told him that the eLab machines across Hamilton County schools had built up more than 10,000 hours of usage in a year.
“It comes as no surprise that many of the machines were experiencing issues that ranged from heavy clogs to component failure due to fatigue,” Yanagida says. “It was at this point that I was able to begin extrapolating the amount of time before equipment issues would reach a critical point across many of the labs.”
Since then, he has maintained equipment in the eLabs for free, including the repair of its 3D printers with a combination of software writing and hands-on design and fabrication. He has installed new equipment such as a heavy-duty laser cutter that he built from the ground up. “Truly, every little piece came in multiple wooden crates,” he says.
“It was my hope to nurture this business to ultimately serve the students’ interest because going through Hamilton County schools myself, I know that it required heavy investment and sacrifice to make my education possible, so it has always been my goal to give back in some way, and it was through these labs that I have been able to.”
Using the knowledge he gained both at UTC and working in the eLabs, he landed a job about two months ago at Tuftco Corp., which manufactures equipment for carpet and flooring companies such as Mohawk and Shaw.
“It has been a fantastic opportunity for me to see a bit more of the design processes,” he says. “They have been extremely flexible with the needs of my business, and it has been a very pleasant experience working for them. I hope to continue contributing to their team for the foreseeable future.
Most of his work at Tuftco is with3D modeling software, and it has brought back “all of the tricks and thought processes” he developed at UTC, he says.
At the recent Nation of Makers Convention in Chattanooga, he took another step towards his future when he met Sherry Lassiter, president of the Fab Foundation, a nonprofit that helps expand the growth of the worldwide fabrication industry through grants, access to tools and education through its multiple Fab Labs. Working in those labs is one of Yanagida’s hopes.
“I believe that our conversation was quite fruitful in the realm of possibly being able to provide an all-in-one service to install their labs and conduct proper preventative maintenance to further extend the life of their equipment,” he says.
Even if that doesn’t come through, though, “I’m going full throttle with my business,” Yanagida says.