Age doesn't matter for young graduate

Published January 9, 2017

Joaquin Martinez is talking about pendulums, coding and control systems and within minutes, maybe less, you’re lost. Chances are, you are not alone.

“When you want to design a control system … basically you design an equation which takes inputs based on the inputs the system has, and then produces response to the system,” he explained using a project involving pendulums and carts as an example.

Out of the mouth of babes. Literally.

There’s no question Martinez is smart. Some might say the recently graduated Cal State Long Beach engineering major is a prodigy of sorts. Think Stewie Griffin with a ponytail.

At age 18, Martinez left CSULB with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, having completed all the requirements in three and a half years. Plus, he has completed two summer internships with NASA, working on aerodynamic maneuvers and the impact of ice particles on planes, and designed a kegerator, a refrigerator of sorts that introduces carbonation into beer as his senior project, an invention he isn’t legally old enough to enjoy.

“I suppose it’s interesting,” Martinez said of his rapid rise through the college ranks. “I have to put in a lot of work, but I do notice I understand concepts a little better (than other students.) It does make college a bit easier for me.”

Schooling has come easy for Martinez, who skipped high school and took his first community college course at age 12. Most of his early college classes were online, although he eventually attended classes at Long Beach City College with his parents in tow. He was, after all, too young to drive.

“The teacher would look at my mom or dad and ask them if they were taking the course and they would answer, ‘No, he is’,” Martinez said, breaking into a nostalgic smile.

He enrolled at CSULB at age 14, but said he didn’t feel awkward or out of place. He said he quickly made friends and was accepted by the older students.

“I don’t think I was paying too much attention and, as far as the course, I was just getting through it,” Martinez said.

Being the youngest at school isn’t anything new in the Martinez family. His brother skipped two elementary school grades and enrolled at Cal State Los Angeles at age 13. Their parents both started college at 16 years old.

Martinez, competitive by nature, wanted to hold the title of the youngest family member to go to college. So, he convinced his parents to enroll him in the community college program before his 13th birthday.

Topping his brother will be a challenge, though. Michael D. Martinez is involved in ground-breaking molecular research at Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, a fact that pushes Joaquin to excel. He is currently taking welding classes at Long Beach City in an effort to further his engineering career and have an edge on the competition.

Martinez plans on attending graduate school, most likely at CSULB. After that? Martinez pauses to come up with a response, a rare occurrence for the guy who usually has all the answers.

“Honestly, I’m open at this point,” Martinez said. “I’ve done a lot of different types of research so I’m kind of hoping that after getting my masters, I find something I really, really like.”