Maker Faire Bay Area: Zevrino Interview

MFBA Zevrino Interview

MFBA Zevrino Interview

We’re counting down to our 7th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 19 and 20 in San Mateo, and the excitement is building! Being in our backyard, this Faire is our “home game” and the world’s largest DIY festival. Last year, we had roughly 90,000 folks come out over the weekend to share the love of all things handmade, and we featured well over 500 makers and their amazing projects. As this year’s lineup is solidifying, we’ll be posting interviews with makers, getting more insight into their projects and themselves. One of the most inspirational aspects of the Faire is the variety of projects shown, and the varied makers who made them, young and old, professional and novice.

Today we chat with 4th grader Ella Smith, who will be showing off her Zevrino Arduino-powered cat feeder, a project she collaborated on with her father, Roger Smith. The Zevrino consists of an Arduino Uno, Arduino motor controller, DS1307 real-time clock with battery backup, a toggle switch, 2 low-speed motors, and 2 Zevro dry food dispensers. Here’s what Ella had to say.

1. Tell us about your Zevrino invention. What inspired you to make it and how long did it take to develop?
The Zevrino is an automatic cat feeder that is powered by an Arduino and can be programmed to dispense cat food at certain times. We built it over a month mostly on the weekends. What inspired us to make it was that we couldn’t leave food out for our cats because they would eat until they would throw up. We did purchase an automatic cat feeder, but our cats outsmarted it by getting food to drop down the chute whenever they wanted, so we took it back and made our own.

2. You collaborated on this project with your father. What was the experience like and how did you each contribute to the design and build?
It was a fun experience. We had to research it using the internet, then we had to drive around to local stores like Home Depot and TAP Plastics to find material we could use in our design. My dad used the dangerous tools like the electric saw to cut the wood, and I used the less dangerous tools like the sander and the soldering iron.

MFBA Zevrino Interview

3. How did you first hear about and get started working with Arduino?
I first heard about the Arduino from my dad, who is a computer engineer.

4. Is the Zevrino strictly a hobby or part of a budding business?
It’s really just a hobby, because it’s probably the world’s most expensive cat feeder.

5. You’ve attended previous Maker Faires. Tell us about your experience and why you decided to participate as a maker this year.
I’ve been to two of the Maker Faires before with my dad. I really like the Maker Shed and looking at the live demonstrations of other people’s projects. We decided to participate this year, because when we were looking on the Makers Faire website for the 2012 date, we saw the notice for the call for makers, and since we had just finished our project, I thought it would be neat to submit it and see what other people thought.

MFBA Zevrino Interview

6. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I am a 4th grader at Portal Elementary School in Cupertino, California. My first experience at making things was actually taking things apart to see how they work. My inspiration is my dad, because he has taught me how to use all of his various tools, and to not be afraid to try things out. I get my crafty side from my mom.

7. What’s your favorite tool?
My favorite tool is the soldering iron because you get to melt stuff.

8. You’re currently 9 years old, correct? What is your dream job at this point?
I just turned 10 at the end of March. My dream job is to be a veterinarian because I love animals. I have two cats and two guinea pigs, in the past I’ve had lots of fish, and I really want to get a dog.

9. What advice would you give to other young makers out there just getting started with hands-on projects?
I would say don’t be afraid to try new things, I was initially afraid to use the soldering iron because I thought I would burn myself, but my dad taught me how to use it safely. Also you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time tweaking your design to fix the little issues that come up and to make it work better.

10. If you could use your skills as a maker to create one great invention or solve one big problem, what would that be?
There is a big problem with all of the homeless animals that get brought to the Humane Society. I would develop an automatic feeder that could feed all the different types of animals at the Humane Society.

MFBA Zevrino Interview

Thanks, Ella! This is a great project, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.

The Call for Makers is closed, but you there are still ways you can get involved in the Faire. Early bird tickets are available until May 9th, so grab your ticket now and save. For all the information you need, head to the Maker Faire website.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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