Name: Lauren Valley

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Day Job: Student

Night Job: Mad Scientist

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How did you get started making?

I came to the maker realm in high school about 8 years ago, and even then I wasn’t medium specific. I’ve always been interested in materials and the way they can convey concepts. I began my journey as a more traditional “maker” during my freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University when I was granted access to a laser cutter. Immediately, I was amazed by its versatility and how it could be used to not only create art but also build custom parts for larger structures.

What type of maker would you classify yourself as?

I would classify myself as a YouTube maker with a focus in robotics. When I first began filming videos for my channel, Junie Genius, I never thought I would be able to continue as long as I have, but week-to-week, I found myself focusing more on conveying an idea using a few parts rather than exploring the reach of a certain piece of technology. Through my videos, I try to present technology as something that can be expressive, humorous, and thought-provoking.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?

I have a few favorites, all for different (horrible) reasons:

Noise Cancelling Robot: This robot was born out of existential stress and overdue assignments. Basically, it’s a shoulder-mounted robot that covers your mouth with a pillow so you can scream in public for quick stress relief (no, it doesn’t work, but it makes you feel amazing if you can get past the fact that you’re literally just screaming in public)

Robot Blanket: A first hand example that failure can be both a good thing and incredibly hilarious.

Haunted Robotic Teddy Bear: It’s a robot that combines a few of my favorite things— paranormal activity, bears, and the classic 80s game, Simon.

Bot in a Tot: (Probably my most divisive video on the internet) I made a giant tater tot and put a robot inside of it. Nope, this wasn’t for any sort of deeper meaning. I was just eating tater tots one day, and I thought to myself “Do you know what this world needs…”

What is something you’d like to make next?

Literally anything is possible at this point….it’s kind of horrifying.

How can I (the reader) get started building robots?

Throughout my maker journey, the internet has been my best friend. Sites like Arduino, Make:, Instructables, and YouTube provide endless opportunity to learn and connect with others.

Any advice for people reading this?

If you have an idea, just go for it. If I could get away with literally putting a robot in a giant tater tot, you can honestly do anything you set your mind to.

Also, you know, hard work and all that…