Life-long maker Matt Gryczan conceived of and documented the how-to for the Gyrocar in the current issue of MAKE, Volume 23, and I had the privilege of meeting him and his family at Maker Faire Detroit in July. Matt worked the MAKE booth with us all weekend, and his enthusiasm for sharing knowledge never waned despite the long hours. We recently asked him 10 questions about his inspirations, the Gyrocar design, and the future of Michigan. Here’s what he shared with us.
1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things? When I was in fourth grade, my older brothers at Christmas got the Kenner toy kits for making things: the two that come to mind were the hydrodynamics set and the skyrail set. From then on, I was hooked on technology. Soon after, I followed instructions in an old book from the local library on how to build a battery and solenoid, and I’ve been making things from scratch ever since.
2. How did you go about coming up with and designing the Gyrocar? I’d seen a photo of an antique toy of a jockey riding a horse that was kept upright by a string-pull gyroscope, and I thought it would be fun to make a contemporary version that was battery powered. Anyone who has played with a string-pull gyroscope knows how quickly they run down.
3. What made you decide to turn your build into a DIY? The project seemed well suited for a tinkerer: it’s fun to play with, made from scrap or inexpensive components, and not particularly difficult to build if you take your time.
4. You did a neat demo at Maker Faire Detroit to illustrate gyroscopes. Can you describe it for us? I first used a toy string-pull gyroscope to show it can balance supported on only one end, apparently defying gravity. That always amazes anyone who hasn’t played with a gyroscope. Then I showed how the gyrocar can maintain its balance running around a single blade for a track. That usually elicits a “That is cool” comment. We then did an old physics demonstration where my daughter stood on a stool that turns easily with a bicycle wheel as a gyro. As she turned the spinning bicycle wheel, her whole body spun on the stool.
5. How long have you been living in the Detroit area? What do you love most about Detroit? I live in Grand Rapids, which is about 160 miles west of Detroit, and I made the trip specifically for the Maker Faire Detroit. Anyone who makes things can find lots to love about both cities and Michigan in general. The state has a long and storied history in manufacturing and technology.
6. You’ve said that Maker Faire Detroit was a “life-changing experience” for you. Why? I came away from the Maker Faire Detroit with a newfound optimism that Americans haven’t lost their drive to invent and make things. Some of the projects I saw there were simply outstanding.
7. You are the founder of SciTech Communications. Tell us what you do there and why you decided to start the company. I’m the principal of SciTech Communications, which is a public relations firm that deals with complex sales propositions that one may find in manufacturing, information technology, finance, and other industries. I decided to start SciTech because it is a niche market that employs my experience as a business journalist and engineer.
8. What new idea has excited you most recently? I’ve always been fascinated by arches in buildings, and I’m working on a model that shows how they work.
9. Who are your inspirations? Alfred P. Morgan, A.C. Gilbert, Don Herbert, Thomas Edison
10. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started? Edison had it right when he said genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Keep trying if it doesn’t work the first time. Making something finally work will bring you a joy that can’t be found anywhere else. The first two versions of the Gyrocar didn’t work worth a darn, but the third iteration more than made up for the time spent on the first two.
Thanks, Matt! Check out the full Gyrocar project on Make: Projects, our new how-to library, and if you don’t have MAKE Volume 23, be sure to pick it up in the Maker Shed, or a fine bookstore near you.
From the pages of MAKE: MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.