Tell us about yourself.
I have always loved math and science and problem solving and doing overly ambitious things with my hands. I knew I needed to be an electrical engineer as soon as I found out what that was. I love learning and acquiring new skills.
What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
I’ll be driving my full-scale replica R2-D2 around the faire. I officially kicked off this project in 1984, though I’ve made a lot more progress recently than in those first couple of decades. When I learned about the R2 Builders Group at a Discovery World Star Wars event a few years ago, I realized that most of the original barriers were now gone. R2 is a work in progress, and may never truly be “finished”, since there will always be a better computer or sensor to add.
Why is making important to you?
I grew up learning that when you need something, you make it, and when something breaks you fix it. My grandpa and dad were great tinkerers and makers, so I was lucky to have a pretty decent basement workshop, but most people didn’t have this. Now I love to see people walk into Milwaukee Makerspace who say they don’t know how to do things but want to learn, and a bunch of people jump in to help. There is so much generosity in the maker community.
What was the first thing you remember making?
My older brother Tom would make cool electronics projects and fix tube radios, and I idolized him and followed him around like puppy (which he did not appreciate). He told me to go down to our basement and build a flashlight from scratch, and then he might let me do more things with him. I used time-honored wood and nails construction, but it worked.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
That would have to be my daughter Kyra. It’s been fun working on her programming, though she is slowly turning into a Dalek. Or maybe a teenager.
Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
I’ve always wanted to build a giant robot with six hydraulic legs that I could ride around, where each of the legs is based on the arm of a Caterpillar excavator. An unlimited budget would definitely help.