Teen builds traffic signal, develops mentorship with ACHD staff

Jacob Jewett assembles his miniature signal cabinet at ACHD before a tour.

One simple question from a local teen about how traffic signals function developed into an on-going partnership and mentorship with members of the Ada County Highway District’s traffic operations department.

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Jewett began his research on signal operations two years ago.

“One day I decided to take a deep dive into how they work,” he said. “Stemming from the simple question of ‘But, what IS that, really?’ Then from there I’ve just been taking any opportunities I can get to test my understanding and get a piece of it in my hands to tinker with.”

Jacob started to build his own traffic signal. He found helpful tutorials and guides online which helped kickstart his hobby and passion. In December of 2019, he reached out to ACHD to further his knowledge.

ACHD’s traffic operations department has provided Jacob with support and guidance by answering questions and giving him some signal components. ACHD even hosted Jacob and his father for a tour, where Jacob was able to show off the traffic signal cabinet he built.

“Jacob has great passion for electronics and signal operations, so it is no surprise that he keeps pushing forward with his ideas,” said Greg Fullerton, ACHD Traffic Operations Superintendent.  “It’s good to know that we could help him.”

“I don’t think I can fully express how thankful I am for everyone there,” Jacob said. “Donating some of their precious time from their day to answer my questions and provide to me the opportunities like [a tour]; to get my hands on some of the equipment I’ve spent months looking into.”

This started as a hobby for Jacob, but he is turning it into his senior project–and possibly a career.

“He aspires to become a Journeyman electrician. We have eleven Journeymen at ACHD in the Traffic Operations Department. It’s a critical operation at the District, but it can at times be overlooked,” Fullerton said. “It is great to see a kid like Jacob have interest in this as a potential career path and understand how technical it can be.”

“Finding that one project or subject that won’t leave your mind can truly open your imagination and curiosity up to a whole new level if you follow it with open eyes and ears, and practice yourself at the fine craft of learning,” Jacob said. “This is one of the biggest reasons I want to present this equipment at my school. It’s not so much about what it does or how I do it, but the process of how I got from knowing exactly nothing about the topic to where I am now, and perhaps where I’ll be going in the future.”