Maker Faire Detroit: Big Scary Robot interview

Maker Faire Detroit: Big Scary Robot interview

The countdown to Maker Faire Detroit is down to T minus 3 days, and we’re hoping you’ll come out and play, learn, and be inspired with us on July 31 and August 1 at The Henry Ford. Among the over 250 projects that will be at the Faire is the Big Scary Robot (BSR) from inspirational young makers Nick Kalvaitis and Dan Schulte. The robot is built on an awesome premise. We spoke with Nick and Dan, and this is what they had to say. Make sure to check out their video below for wonderfully dramatic details on the build.

1. Tell us about the project(s) you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
Our initial question was: “What does it take to be an engineer?” We took a broken hunk of junk Scorbot robotic arm that came without software or a controller, without a manual, and with a broken motor. We set out to make it balance a ball on a beam. Not easy, but in the end fun! We learned that it takes a lot to be an engineer. We made it work and are proud of it.

2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
Nick’s dad found out about it through The Henry Ford. He was entering and we thought we could enter, too.

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
Dan: I’ve been interested in robots since I was little.
Nick: I’ve been interested in making things because my dad’s an EE/CompSci guy and likes to work with circuits.

We’ve been in robotic competitions and shows. Our inspiration comes from teachers, Nick’s dad, and publications.


4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?
We’re still kids, so this is just a hobby for now!

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
Nick: I’m curious about aerodynamics and cars.
Dan: I’m interested in software languages and programming.


6. What is your motto?
When in doubt, don’t touch the program. Also, don’t kick the robot.

7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
Don’t go halfway and give up. You’ll never know how far your mind can take you if you quit!

8. What do you love most about Detroit?
Nick: I moved here two years ago and enjoy the variety of music, people, the downtown, constant activities available, and the lakes in Michigan.
Dan: I like the robotics and programming opportunities here.

Thanks Nick and Dan! Way to make something out of nothing, gentlemen. We’ll be looking forward to checking out the BSR in person. For all the information you need to join us this weekend, including getting tickets online, check out the Maker Faire Detroit 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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