How do you know if your children are tinkerers, inventors or budding engineers? They may like to take things apart just to see how they work. They may not be able to put them back together, but the curiosity factor is the indicator of an interest in making things, which is why the modern term for tinkerers and inventors is “makers.”
Taking things apart is how Joey Hudy, 16, of Anthem, got started. Last week I found him kneeling on the floor, staring intently at a computer monitor at HeatSync Labs, a cooperative work space on Main Street in Mesa. There are chairs at HeatSync, but Hudy was intent on solving a problem and finding a chair to sit on was not part of the solution. He was making a Dr. Who-themed Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend, Katie.
Hudy spent an hour or so getting help from fellow makers Moheeb Zara and Jacob Rosenthal. He needed to create a graphics file of the Valentine that was compatible with a laser cutting machine and would inscribe the design on the surface and then cut out a heart shape.
Hudy has some notoriety in the maker field. A couple years ago, he shot marshmallows out of his “extreme marshmallow cannon” in the East Room of the White House with President Barack Obama. Seriously. Watch the 2012 video clip below.
Hudy also made a video announcement for the White House about the upcoming Maker Faire this year (date to be announced).
This summer Hudy is heading to Shenzhen, China, and Paris and possibly other places as part of his job for Intel’s wearable computing department. In fact, he is Intel’s youngest intern. He was a guest of Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address in January.
Remember, Hudy started out dismantling things. Before his marshmallow cannon, he tried to build a trebuchet—a medieval military catapult used to hurl missiles, like huge rocks—out of cardboard. He realized he wasn’t using the correct materials (his textbooks) as counterweights when the contraption collapsed instead of flinging objects over the neighborhood.
Hudy discovered online resources where people shared his passion for designing and building things, whether electronic, mechanical or a bit of both. He also discovered maker faires, which he describes as the epicenter for people who make things. Hudy went to his first Maker Faire in San Francisco a few years ago and realized there is a whole world of makers who collaborate and share ideas, knowledge and a passion for making stuff.
Hudy’s website has a list of maker faires and other maker resources.
I asked him if kids still make plastic car models from kits, like people of a certain age did when they were younger.
“Car models? I don’t know. I’d have to check,” he said. I took that as a definite no.
Hudy built his marshmallow cannon in middle school and has designed projects like a 3x3x3 LED Cube Arduino shield. The Arduino is an “open-source electronics prototyping platform” that makes plastic car models in boxes look old school.
His mother Julie Hudy describes herself as a “maker mom.” She is well versed in many of the tools and processes of the maker world. She also drives Joey from Anthem to school at Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy on ASU West’s campus and to Heatsync in Mesa. Hudy will get his driver’s license this summer.
A mom who didn’t know Julie’s experience with a maker son once told her about her own son who was always taking things apart to see how they worked. The mom didn’t know how to channel her son’s energy or how to save their appliances and electronic gadgets. Julie directed her to online maker resources. You, too, can contact Julie for information about directing your child’s creative energies.