Clovis North whiz kid starts his own tech company

The Fresno BeeApril 4, 2014 

Janet Morgan fondly remembers the days when neighbors and family friends would bring over broken-down toaster ovens and other appliances for her young son to tinker with.

Not exactly kid-friendly material, but the donated odds and ends were exactly the type of plaything her now 16-year-old son George loved to toy with as a toddler.

"At first they were just his toys, but as he got older, he started taking everything apart," she said.

Now, the Clovis North High School junior is getting ready to unveil his own startup electronics company. Like any savvy tech mogul, the up-and-comer is keeping the company name -- and its assets -- under wraps. But he's ready to give some clues about his product: an electronic chip that would allow everyday people to automate everyday devices.

Think about what it would be like to design and construct your own security system. You might buy flood lights and electronic locks. But how would you make it work? What program would you use to automate text alerts if someone breaks in? That's where George hopes to help.

Hypothetically, the chip could allow its owner to control any number of devices. Online communities of people already using similar chips show projects ranging from a pressure-activated umbrella to a bicycle jacket with light-up turn signals sewn to the back.

George has crafted his own version -- a flat basic computer smaller than a credit card, but powerful enough to operate a robot. He's hand-built four of them so far, using household items like an old convection oven to help fuse tiny metal components onto the chip's base.

He has two paid employees -- a graphic artist and a videographer -- and is looking for office space. This summer, he plans to start an online campaign on the popular Kickstarter crowd-funding website to raise cash -- and awareness -- for his product.

So what makes the kid behind the craft tick?

The teen said he gets five hours of sleep nightly in between balancing several Advanced Placement classes at school and rolling out his company. It wasn't always this way: George remembers some of his earliest projects with his dad, like learning to use basic resistors, batteries and motors to make things work.

By age 7, George designed his own portable Game Boy charger.

That was his first light bulb moment, he said.

"I didn't know it was called computer engineering yet," he said, "But I knew I'd spend the rest of my life working on electronics."

At age 11, he coded a basic computer program at technology camp. By 14, he was designing applications for iPhones. He was contracted by companies to build apps -- some paying as high as $12,000 -- and currently has three for sale on Apple's App Store.

His peers at Clovis North call him everything from a "genius" to a "total goofball." Some were surprised to hear he owned his own company.

"He's more mature than most in a lot of ways, but still a kid," said Julie Havens, his AP French teacher.

Havens has taught George for three years. It's admirable that he's dedicated to perfecting his French, she said, since he already devotes so much energy to math and science -- inside and outside of class.

"This is a kid who on a weekend goes and meets with people from Apple," she said. "He's almost in awe of what he's getting to do, which is what makes him so likable."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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