We are proud of our friend and colleague, Thomas Zimmerman, who was honored today as California’s Volunteer of the Year.

Tom, who has written a half dozen terrific how-to articles for MAKE (including an electronic drum kit, a lensless microscope, a simple way to interconnect protoboards, a one-string electric guitar from plastic tubing, a TV-to-synth interface, and a wireless remote control camera on wheels) was given the award by California First Lady Maria Shriver.

“I even got to speak a little German with Arnold during our photo op,” says Tom. “Mrs. Hoffer, my 7th grade German teacher, would be proud.”

Zimmerman has been bringing his hands-on approach to volunteerism to local schools for more than seven years, with specific focus on low-income, non-native English speaking students. Together, Zimmerman and the students have built circuits and devices, an electric guitar and drum kit out of plastic pipe, a microscope with no lens, and a mini Mars rover, among many other things. Many of these projects have been published in MAKE, a magazine for do-it-yourself enthusiasts.

After receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation, Zimmerman formalized his activities into a curriculum at the Latino College Preparatory Academy (LCPA), a public charter high school in East San Jose run by the National Hispanic University. Over one hundred students have participated in this two-year program that combines extreme activities with science and includes a summer camp.

Tom, we salute you. You’re an inspiration to us all.