Humans of Harker: Under the hood

Bayden Yazalina balances self-sufficiency in engineering with support

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Arya Maheshwari

“I don’t want to dog on teamwork because I’m a big fan of teamwork for sure—there are a lot of times for it. But to a degree, I really do appreciate the importance of self-sufficiency. I’m a big fan of that, not in a way of ‘you should not need other people,’ but when necessary, you should be able to handle what’s thrown at you,” Bayden Yazalina (12) said.

Machines are black boxes to most people. They serve a purpose; once they outlive their usefulness, they are readily replaced. But give Bayden Yazalina (12) a computer—no matter how old—and its CPU and components will soon be under dissection; give him a car, and you’ll find its hood open, engine and tubing under close inspection.

If you’re looking for Bayden, the odds are that he’ll be tinkering and testing for his latest engineering endeavor. From giving old iPods a storage boost to fashioning a taser out of a disposable camera, Bayden’s pursuit of mechanical and electrical projects has become one of his defining passions.

“It varies to whatever piques my interest because I’m very interested in how things work,” Bayden said. “I think people should educate themselves more about the technology or mechanical devices that they use.”

Among the medley of machines that he has worked with, Bayden devotes much of his time to working on cars, from doing regular maintenance to puzzling over new repairs. And there’s one car in particular that holds a special place in his heart: a 1996 Land Rover Discovery.

“[It’s] currently my grandma’s car, which way back when I was born was my parents’ car and the car I came home from the hospital in,” Bayden said. “It has a nostalgic feel to me: I’ve known that car for as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s not reliable in the slightest, so I always have a chance to work on it.”

Now, with multiple years of experience in working with everything from antiquated automobiles to cutting-edge tech gadgets, Bayden recognizes two fundamental principles that have proven pivotal across his projects.

“The key really is understanding what you’re working with and staying organized. When you’re taking screws off of something, you always want to mark down exactly what they are and where they go,” Bayden said. “And while you’re working through things, you always want to understand what you’re working on, because if you’re guessing at it, that’s when everything falls apart and you break something.”

Though Bayden’s mechanical and electrical projects are often motivated out of curiosity rather than necessity, close friend Shaunak Narain (12) recalls his amazement upon watching Bayden put his skills to the test when dealing with a cracked phone screen.

“He didn’t want to take it to the Apple store, and iPhones are not easy to fix, because they want you to go to the store. But he was like, ‘Nah, I’m going to do this myself,’” Shaunak said. “So he took the screen off, fixed his phone—and it’s this long process—and he put it back together. It looked like [it was] professionally done.”

Bayden’s determination underscores his belief in self-sufficiency, a skill he considers valuable on top of teamwork in order to be well-equipped to handle challenges that come his way in the future.

“I don’t want to dog on teamwork because I’m a big fan of teamwork for sure—there are a lot of times for it. But to a degree, I really do appreciate the importance of self-sufficiency,” Bayden said. “I’m a big fan of that, not in a way of ‘you should not need other people,’ but when necessary, you should be able to handle what’s thrown at you.”

Beyond working on such projects, Bayden appreciates the solitude and serenity of the outdoors, which he enjoys as an avid mountain biker, an activity he picked up from his father.

“I honestly don’t like being in ‘the zone,’ because it’s tense and stressed, but mountain biking is my calm escape where I can relax and go nice and slow,” Bayden said. “I’m the kind of introvert where I enjoy spending time with people, but I also really value my alone time, and so [mountain biking is] a really great way for me to get away.”

Like mountain biking, another source of relaxation that Bayden enjoys is reading. From science fiction like Michael Crighton’s Sphere to detective classics like the Sherlock Holmes series, he appreciates the creative storylines built in his favorite books—giving him more than one world to explore.

“Secretly, I really love reading…[even though] I’m more of a hands-on, let’s-just-get-some-work-done guy. I really love that feeling of being enveloped in it and being like, ‘This universe that the author has created is so crazy,’” Bayden said.

But while he might immerse himself in an individual project one day, Bayden can readily switch into his more gregarious side the next: as close friend Sofia Fernandez (12) notes, humor and conversation are among Bayden’s fortes, though perhaps lesser-known to most.

“A lot of people don’t really see how funny he is. He comes off [as] very serious and very focused on his goal that he’s trying to achieve, but he’s really funny and down-to-earth and a great person to have conversations with,” Sofia said. “I can talk to him for hours about random things.”

And with experience on teams from numerous sports seasons, Bayden brings an open mind and support to the table, which surfaced quite memorably during eighth grade soccer, when Bayden volunteered to be goalie, a position he had never played, as close friend and teammate Ryan Tobin (12) fondly recalls.

“We [were doing] a shooting drill to see how good he was. [One of the first shots] hit the back of the crossbar, came down, hit the back of his head and went in, and everyone at the practice started laughing. But he picked himself up and kept going, and he was a good goalie throughout the year,” Ryan said. “He did it to help us out and support the team…we needed someone, and he stood up.”

At the end of the day, Bayden’s respect for self-sufficiency doesn’t get in the way of his camaraderie: instead, he’s found his balance in maintaining both.

“He’s willing to work as a team and get things done, but he’s also very capable individually,” Shaunak said. “So if I had to describe [Bayden] in one word, it would be balanced.”