Renaissance men typically are not 18 years old, walking in the halls of a high school in mid-America, but that is exactly what Austin Wood is.
The Smith-Cotton senior is a man of many talents and interests whose work has been seen across the United States thanks to his work at Smith-Cotton and for Team SCREAM, the school’s competitive robotics team.
“Austin is an amazing young man who is gifted with a lot of talent,” Team SCREAM coach and industrial technology teacher Michael Wright said. “He’s been with us for three years and I have watched him grow and mature tremendously as a member of the team and on his own.
“He creates some really good videos and his creative talents have added a lot to the team,” Wright added. “He understands a story and likes to tell it in his way.”
The story Wood developed for Team SCREAM’s video this season has been seen by thousands of people since it has been shown at every FIRST Robotic Competition hosted in the United States this year.
“I really joined Team SCREAM because of Mr. Satnan, my journalism instructor,” Wood said. “I was taking his Intro to Journalism class and I think he liked me and my work; he was the one who told me about Team SCREAM and the fact that they need people on the media side to do things like video production and blogging and even though I was hesitant I decided to try it.
“I was always fascinated with the power of the moving image and I wanted to try it out,” Wood added. “During my first year on the team I felt rather lost, and almost bored in my work because it very rudimentary in my editing.”
Wood said he then started working with prototypes using beat drop and his work took on a new feel and look.
He commented that throughout his film-work for Team SCREAM, one of his main goals was to make both the team and his work look awesome.
In between his work for the team, Wood began make videos for others including for Dick Brother’s Barber Shop and an elderly gentlemen farmer who was 92 years old and still farming.
“I learned a lot through my independent work and my multimedia class here at the school also really expanded my knowledge,” Wood said. “I had left Team SCREAM but decided to rejoin them for my senior year especially when I heard their theme for the season was #All In.
“I thought it was something I could get behind and promote from the beginning of the concept,” Wood added. “I started with the pre-season and made highlight videos.”
From there Wood wrote a script and shot footage, taking about two weeks to complete the project.
“I started with a close-up of the robot and then stepped back to get the full view of the entire robot,” Wood explained. “Then I went further back to try to capture the entire concept hoping that others would see the inspiration behind what the team does and that with inspiration, nothing is impossible.”
Wood said he posted the video and overnight it had reached more than 1,000 views.
“I really thought that was cool and something I could be proud of,” Wood said. “I never thought that it would be picked up and shown at every regional event before the final selections are announced.
“It’s an indiscernible feeling the first time I saw it at a regional,” Wood added. “It was a moment of pure happiness and yet it was very humbling at the same time.”
Wood said film-making is a passion and something he hopes to do for the rest of his life, but there are other passions he hopes to explore.
In the fall, Wood will attend Missouri State University in Springfield. An undeclared major, Wood said he chose the university because it offers all the majors he has an interest in.
“I don’t want to limit myself to digital media,” Wood commented. “I have a passion for English and literature and acting as well as instrumental music.
“I think my dream job would be teaching English in a foreign county in a college setting,” Wood said. “I think I would adapt well to that. English comes naturally to my life and I find it is my best subject. I am so fond of words because language has a beautiful, rich history and there is such a potential to do so much with words.”
Wood commented that he feels the power of the written word is greatly underestimated in society, adding that language makes man capable of so much.
“Music is so closely tied to language and I feel it provides me another outlet and ways to express oneself,” Wood said. “It strikes at the core of human emotion.
“I’m not a natural at music and I have had to work on it,” he said. “I don’t know if I am talented at it, I think it is a matter of becoming more skilled with it.”
Acting, on the other hand, is something Wood said he feels comes naturally.
“I never saw myself doing it (acting) until I started in the Upward Bound program,” Wood said. “I came naturally to it and rolled with it.
“Acting is very freeing and it is such a valuable expression that has allowed me to test extremes,” Wood added. “I like the balance between comedy and drama because it allows me to express myself in a way that is not possible in real life.”
Although he does not foresee acting in his future, he added that things could change very quickly.
“I don’t know where I will be 10 years from now,” Wood commented. “I want a career that I am passionate about and not a ‘job.’
“Financial stability is important, but whatever I do I want to create,” he added. “I truly believe that whatever you do is what you are.”
Bob Satnan, journalism instructor and communications director for the Sedalia School District 200, has no doubt Wood will succeed in whatever path he chooses.
“I met Austin when he took my journalistic writing class when he was a sophomore,” Satnan said. “He immediately impressed me with his thoughtful questions and desire to tell compelling stories.
“It has been great to see him evolve as a student, maintaining his interest in music while branching into theater, robotics and video production,” Satnan said. “Austin is a true example of a kid who is getting the most out of his high school career; his future will be as bright as he can make it and I’m looking forward to being able to say, ‘I knew him when…’”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484