From STEM Student to Tech Entrepreneur: The Journey of Andon Russell

By: Sunnie Dawn Baker

When Andon Russell joined the Chickasaw Nation STEM Academy at age eight, he had no way of knowing where this journey would lead him. Now, at 18, Russell is a tech entrepreneur with his own company and a big vision for the future. None of this would have been possible without the STEM training he received and the mentorship and support of his teacher, Luke Kerr. Now, with his own business, he strives to grow his company while also helping support the overall economic well-being of Ada.

When Russell first started doing robotics, he wasn’t sure it was for him. After Russell left the program for a couple of years, he returned when the program started up again post-COVID and realized that not only robotics was for him, but also that he had a deep passion for technology, problem-solving, and learning new things. Not only did the robotics team teach him about the importance of teamwork, but his teacher also saw something in Russell and pushed him to expand his skills, introducing him to the deeper intricacies of CAD (computer-aided design). Russell had already played around with CAD a little on his own. He was gifted a 3-D printer when he was 15 years old and would do basic CAD modeling in order to print little trinkets. However, after a year and a half of basic modeling and printing, Kerr taught him more about the possibilities in this field. Russell caught on so quickly that whenever Ram Jack was looking for someone to join their R&D division, Kerr suggested that they consider Russell.

At seventeen years old, Russell, who was homeschooled and also studying HVAC at PTC, landed his first job. When he first started thinking about working, he assumed that he would work in retail or some other typical teenage job. However, instead, he found himself working as a product designer for Ram Jack’s R& D division. This marked the next pivotal moment in his life, altering his trajectory. He loved the challenge of creating prototypes for new products but also came to an important realization. While companies like Ram Jack have the ability to maintain an entire R&D division, many smaller companies, especially those that are just starting, lack this capacity. When many manufacturers are just starting, they may only possess the capacity to keep up with their original product and lack the time, energy, or knowledge to expand into new products that could facilitate business growth. When Russell realized this, he transformed his 3-D printing company from producing trinkets to establishing Russ-Tech Industries.

The whole purpose of Russ-Tech Industries is to provide an R&D department to companies that are not in a place to have their own R&D in-house. While some online companies will create prototypes for people, they generally offer impersonal services and lack the back-and-forth communication necessary to bring ideas to reality. This is where Russell is different. One of his favorite parts of his business is meeting with his customers and helping them figure out exactly what it is that they need. This process involves collaboration, where Russell helps customers discern what will work, what won’t, and how to improve a design. Russell says, “People have good ideas, they just don’t know how to make those ideas into a reality.” After this initial conversation, Russell starts using CAD to design the prototype and then shows it to the customer. His aim is to take his customers through the entire process from idea to manufacturing.

While Russell currently operates Russ-Tech Industries as a one-man operation, he has big dreams for expansion. He eventually wants to hire more engineers and experts to expand his reach and capabilities. The more he can offer, the more businesses he can help. For Russell, this whole endeavor is about more than just having a successful business. He wants to help the local economy by giving small manufacturers and startups the capacity for growth that they otherwise would not have. This expansion would create more quality jobs, both at Russ-Tech Industries and in the businesses he assists.

While Russell loves Ada because it is home, he also views it as fertile ground for possibilities. He says, “There is a lot of ambition and room for growth, but people tend to doubt their skill level.” He hopes to help these entrepreneurs realize that their ideas are worthwhile and can turn into something great; they just might need a little help along the way, which is precisely the service that Russ-Tech Industries strives to provide.

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