5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Things About Schuyler St. Leger

Craft & Design

The most wonderful thing about Schuyler St. Leger is that while he knows more about technology and electronics than most, he juxtaposes that knowledge with earnest curiosity. As much as Schuyler has to share, he also wants to learn.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Schuyler. He walked right up to me in the hotel bar after Maker Faire and struck up a conversation. I was not expecting to meet an 11 year old that night. He was so easy to engage with, and he has a spectacular sense of humor, it was not long before I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. From that moment on, I’ve following him on twitter (@DocProfSky), and I am always so inspired by his adventures in making.

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One Project You Are Particularly Proud Of:
1. My motion detecting alarm. This was my very first Arduino project that I programmed myself. I think I was seven or eight years old at the time (I’m eleven now.) The idea was sparked during one of my many trips to RadioShack when I spotted a motion detector there and thought this would make a cool DIY project. I gathered up some components (Arduino Duemilanove, passive infrared {PIR} motion detector, beeper siren, breadboard, jumper wires, resistors, power adapter, etc.) and starting putting it together. Ladyada’s Arduino programming tutorial really helped me figure out all of the programming. To make the unit a bit more stealth I put all of the components into a flushable diaper wipes box (my youngest brother was two at the time.) I had a blast just leaving it on the floor in an area where everyone walked. My dad walked by it a bunch of times and couldn’t figure out “…where is that annoying beeping noise coming from?!” It was priceless!
Two Mistakes You’ve Made in the Past:
1. Crashing my 3D printer head into the build platform. I’ve done this countless times on my MakerBot Cupcake CNC printer and a few times on my Thing-O-Matic. The last time I did this was when I was doing a 3D printer demonstration to a bunch of elementary school kids at a science night event. They were mesmerized by the printing of a whistle and were lining up to wait for a print of their very own whistle. After many prints towards the end of the night the Z-axis became misaligned enough to crash into the build platform and tear up the aluminum heat spreader and the belt. It was easily fixable later, but at the time it caused many sad faces among the students when I had to tell them “Sorry, no more printing whistles tonight.”
2: Disassembly without successful reassembly. Most makers know you can learn a lot by taking things apart, making careful observations of what’s inside, how it’s designed, how it’s built, etc. The secret is to be able to put it all back together. Well, one time I was at an Intel GreenIT fair where a guy had a bunch of pedal-driven devices connected to a Kill-A-Watt. It was the first time I had seen a Kill-A-Watt. The guy was really nice and let me take it apart to see what components were inside, the back of the display, etc. Unfortunately somewhere along the way something went wrong and it never worked after that. The guy seemed okay with it, but my dad wasn’t so happy.
Three Things That Make Your Work Unique:
1: Kids don’t know what they can’t do. Did I tell you that I’m only eleven?! More often than not my approach is atypical. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s rarely boring.
2: Share and Share Alike. I really enjoy sharing my work, creations, and skills with other people. If someone, anyone is interested, I’ll talk to them for hours, telling them about my work and trying to encourage them to try it themselves.
3: Serendipitous Results: I usually don’t plan my projects all the way through to the end. Sure, this usually means a few extra trips to Fry’s Electronics or RadioShack, but it also often means I have to improvise some part of my creation. You never know what impact that will have on the final outcome.
Four Tools You Love To Use:
1: Digital Multimeter: This is probably one of my first “great tools,” though I’ll admit I really just took over my dad’s Fluke meter. I use one all the time: from figuring out if a random AC power supply might be useful (“Hmmm…I wonder what voltage this puts out…”), to testing batteries, to debugging projects.
2: Screwdriver Multi-bit Kit: Getting back to taking stuff apart, you need a great set of screwdrivers to be able to remove all the “removal will void warranty” screws. It seems like the guys who make hard drives, cameras, inkjet printers, etc. go out of their way to keep us out of the very products we own! That’s just wrong. Having all the right bits at hand is great to expedite disassembly.
3: Soldering Iron: It’s THE fundamental tool for making electronics stuff. In your hand you have something better than conductive glue for putting together electronics projects. It’s a great feeling.
4: Computers/Internet: Computers are great tools for design (e.g. 3D models for my 3D printer), programming (e.g. Arduino), running machines (e.g. MakerBot), and finding nearly ANY information you need. There are so many great tutorials, videos, blogs, projects, and helpful sites online. How else can you read the digital version of MAKE magazine, including corrections to errors in the printed edition?!
There’s one more that’s really just on my personal wish list. That would be an oscilloscope. I’ve used one many times at my local hackerspace HeatSync Labs. But I really REALLY want to have my own at home so I can use it on my own projects without having to ask my parents to drive me to HeatSync. Now if only some generous soul out there reads this… :)
Of course if you consider a 3D printer a “tool” then it should have been listed as my number one tool. I currently own a Cupcake CNC and Thing-O-Matic, both from MakerBot Industries. I’ve been passionate about 3D printing for a few years now. It’s an amazing technology that lets you build just about anything that you can model. I never tire of printing out things.
FIRST - Schuyler and Wozniak.JPG
Five Inspirations:
1: My Local Hackerspace: HeatSync Labs is such a great place. They have awesome tools and even better, awesome people. It’s the people who inspire me. One particular person is Jacob Rosenthal, who helped me in my early days learning how to solder well (including toaster oven reflow soldering and hot air re-work), hack devices (we had a great time hacking the Red Bull Creation project board), Arduino programming, and 3D printing (we started on a RepRap Mendel.) He also started a Young Makers group at HeatSync. He’s very inspiring (and patient too!)
2: The Maker Community: Going to Maker Faire for the very first time in 2010 was eye-opening. There were so many cool projects. The makers are amazing in that they’ll just talk to you and tell you all about their projects. I always learn a ton and come away all excited about starting a bunch of new projects (which is what causes my “partially finished projects” list to keep growing!).
3: Miscellaneous Junk: I have a bunch of “stuff” (my parents call it junk) lying around our house. Inside these boxes lie the makings of projects of tomorrow. Just working through these piles of stuff often sparks some creative “what if” ideas.
4: Great People: Some of the great makers have spent time with me, just talking about making stuff and their experiences. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Wozniak (Apple), Bre Pettis (MakerBot Industries), Mitch Altman (TV-B-Gone), Lenore Edman and Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Science), and even Donald Johanson (ASU; he discovered Lucy in 1974). They all do amazing things that I admire and aspire to.
5: Completed Projects: There’s always a sense of conquering a project when you are finally able to finish it. Getting things to work the way you want them to. That’s inspiring.

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