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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Rocklin High School senior Taras Maksimuk sets up a tripod and camera in his bedroom for a video he'll upload to his YouTube channel, TechRax. The tech-savvy teen has more than 5,700 subscribers and gets so many hits – more than 4.1 million at last count – that he gets paid for bringing visitors to the site as one of YouTube's 1 million partners in 30 countries.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Video topics include how to use gadgets such as this iPod nano.

Rocklin teen gains fame grilling and drilling iPhone for YouTube

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 - 9:57 am

One day last month Taras Maksimuk tested the durability of a new Microsoft Surface tablet by dropping it 4 feet onto a concrete slab in his backyard. The week before that he demonstrated how to use the new iPad mini.

The Rocklin High School senior and other technologically astute teens are turning their backs on part-time jobs flipping burgers and baby-sitting and using their expertise to teach others to use computers, smartphones, tablets and the applications that go with them.

Maksimuk doesn't commute. The teenager usually works in his bedroom or backyard using a tripod and camera to make two- to three-minute videos.

He is a YouTube partner – one of 1 million across 30 countries, according to YouTube officials. The company pays him for bringing visitors to the site.

"To be honest, I never thought this would be possible at such a young age, and I am very happy I discovered this neat talent of mine," Maksimuk said.

His channel TechRax – www.youtube.com/user/TechRax – has more than 5,700 subscribers and more than 4.1 million video views.

YouTube doesn't keep track of the number of partners who are teenagers, although their presence is definitely there, said Kate Mason, a YouTube spokeswoman.

"The generation is obsessed with curating content as well as sharing content," Mason said. "We have everything from how to do makeup and buy clothes to how to dress for a job interview."

She said that teens can share experiences and insight not taught at school, as well as show their creative talents.

Some young YouTube creators have become Internet sensations. Michelle Phan, now in her mid-20s, was a teenager when she began showing people how to put on makeup online. She joined YouTube in 2006 and now has more than 2.3 million subscribers, a number of lucrative businesses and a contract with Lancôme cosmetics.

Maksimuk is becoming a minor celebrity himself. In the last month he added 2,500 subscribers and had 1.5 million additional views on his channel. He's getting more attention from classmates at school.

Maksimuk said the boost in popularity is due to the increased number of videos he has been posting. "I used to make one or two (videos) a month. Now I make about one weekly," he said.

But a review of the channel shows the growing traffic also could be due to a recent change in content.

The enterprising teen – whose site is primarily viewed by men ages 20 to 40 – is drawing big numbers for his series of videos that show him grilling, drilling, microwaving and waterlogging a new iPhone 5 in a number of "durability tests," often at the suggestion of his subscribers. The iPhone 5 plays "Don't Worry, Be Happy" during the tests.

Maksimuk is becoming increasingly more savvy about which videos to post. His most popular video – with nearly 76,000 views – demonstrates whether the iPhone 5 can survive being submerged in water. The teen said he decided to film that video after he discovered that one of the top keywords searched online with the word iPhone is water.

By the way, he said a single iPhone 5 used in all the tests survived almost everything but the microwave. "I'm surprised how strong it is," Maksimuk said. "It's crazy."

The durability tests – punctuated by Maksimuk's exclamations of "that's crazy" – are done without safety equipment, however, and some could be dangerous.

"I guess I did go a little overboard," said the teen, who says his mom "was kind of shocked" when she saw the videos. She asked him to do fewer durability tests, he said.

Maksimuk said he has already earned more than he spent acquiring and then demolishing the iPhone and Microsoft Surface tablet. He made $700 in September and $1,100 in October.

The videos on the channel aren't limited to durability tests. He's also done videos on how to operate a number of new devices and apps, including "Gaming on the iPhone 5," "iPhone 5: Tips and Tricks," "New Samsung Galaxy S4 First Look," "Top 5 best iPhone 5 apps" and "Fake vs. real iPhone 5."

The Rocklin teen said he has made 138 videos on everything from how to play video games to reviewing new products since he began making "simple videos" two years ago.

Maksimuk would like to continue making technology videos for YouTube after high school, but he isn't planning a career around them.

The Ukraine-born son of a housekeeper and armored car guard has a 3.3 grade-point average and plans to go to Sierra College for two years before transferring to a four-year university. He wants to major in accounting.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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