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Park City to Alabama to Silicon Valley: PCHS Graduate Grant Gabrielson’s Journey to Apple

“My high school experience taught me to navigate project deadlines, and helped strengthen my management skills, including managing long-term projects. Most school work both in high school and college focuses on short-term assignments. I knew how to focus on high quality and consistency during the design, code, and build process, even with a long feedback loop and rounds of testing to get from start to finish.”

Grant Gabrielson, PCHS Class of 2017

Embarking on a transformative journey that spans from Park City to Alabama and ultimately leading to Silicon Valley, PCHS graduate Grant Gabrielson's path to Apple is a testament to the early interests he pursued starting in his ninth-grade year at Treasure Mountain Junior High. In 2013, Grant began to lay the foundation to his engineering future by joining the Park City High School Robotics program. At the time, PCHS Robotics was one of only a few programs of its kind in Utah, and it opened the door to a whole new realm of discovery and possibility.

Through robotics, Grant learned basic fundamentals and technology to design, code, and build, and his understanding continued to grow through this hands-on experience. He pursued this new passion by competing in robotics competitions throughout high school, and later joined PCCAPS, where he had the opportunity to work with real companies to design and build solutions aligned within the scope of engineering innovation.

It was during the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) of Grant’s senior year that his robotics team concepted and built a transformer-style robot, which then had multiple robots fold out of it, each performing a different task. This concept was among the most viewed projects (77,000+ views) of the internationally-acclaimed FTC Challenge that year. Alongside robotics, he worked on two engineering-focused PCCAPS projects as an 11th and 12th grader: one project was creating an adjustable sit ski chair for the National Ability Center, and the other was developing off shore wind turbines. Graduating in 2017, Grant credits real world learning in high school, not only for guiding him toward his college and career path, but for equipping him with the skills needed to succeed. He told us, “Having robotics and project based learning experiences in high school gave me an advantage in my college applications, and also meant I was not behind once I started taking these classes in college.” 

Following high school, Grant attended the University of Alabama on a full scholarship majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and was accepted into the coveted Randall Research Scholars Program. In this research-style program, each semester students would choose a project to research, execute and present. He created flexible, wafer-thin solar panels as one of his projects, and was exposed to lots of new ideas throughout the scholars program. Grant noted, “My high school experience taught me to navigate project deadlines, and helped strengthen my management skills, including managing long-term projects. Most school work both in high school and college focuses on short-term assignments. I knew how to focus on high quality and consistency during the design, code, and build process, even with a long feedback loop and rounds of testing to get from start to finish.”

Grant had several career opportunities after graduating from the University of Alabama in 2021, and ultimately decided to take a robotics engineering job with an autonomous grocery store start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the interview process, Grant learned the company had seen his transformer-style robot video from the FTC Challenge in high school, and was impressed with the project.

Flash forward a couple years later, and Grant landed what is arguably the dream job at the biggest and most successful company in the world, Apple, where he works today. The core of his job is developing fixtures and hardware to test touch screens as a Hardware Engineer, working on the main Apple campus. He’s been there for less than a year operating in an insanely fast paced environment, and truly enjoying the experience.  

Grant was very generous in crediting his success to the unique opportunities he had in Park City. “PCEF provided an addendum to the real world to get me here,” Grant said. “As a 16 year old, I had experiences that most don’t get until they’re in the workforce.”

Real World Learning is one of the eight Signature Initiatives supported by PCEF thanks to generous donors. Click → here to see the many STEAM/CTE real-world learning opportunities within PCSD. 

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