Idaho Falls High School senior Ian Finnigan says he wants to one day work with artificial intelligence.
He has the hardware to back it up.
Finnigan recently was awarded the “Top Gun” award at a Technology Students of America conference in Twin Falls.
The award is given to the best all-around student at a two-day conference set up by Technology Students of America during the first week of March. Finnigan was recognized for his ability to produce video games, extemporaneous speaking and his essays about technology.
The award recognizes those with a broad understanding of STEM topics including forensic science, software development and animatronics (cable-pulled devices or monitors that bring life-like characteristics to inanimate objects once popularized by Disney Animation Studios.) Those involved are usually graded by professional standards in seven to eight categories, Finnigan said.
Finnigan, 17, said he also received high marks for his digital video production.
“It feels really good to earn the Top Gun award,” Finnigan said. “It is humbling, especially knowing who has previously earned it.”
A four-year member of the Idaho Falls High School Technology Students of America program, Finnigan said he’s taken all year to work on his respective fields.
His mother, Valerie, said he’s always had a “keen eye” for details and coded in his basement the entire year on the video game he submitted.
She added that Ian has been interested in gaming, coding and technology his whole life. He picked his passion up from his father, Bernard, who is an avid fan of the real-time strategy video game, StarCraft.
“(Ian) is very quiet and often assumes that people are not interested in what he does,” Valerie said. “And so when he came home with the trophy, he allowed me to have my mom moment. You know, just hooting and hollering about him. He’s accomplished so much as our family is going through some turmoil and hardships. This means a whole lot to me as a mother.”
Ian plans to attend University of Idaho this fall and major in computer engineering.
”It is nice to end (his high school career) on a high note,” Ian said.