web analytics

Q&A With Joey Hudy, 14 Year Old Maker of the White House Marshmallow Cannon

14 year old Joe Hudy has been having fun. From promoting science at Maker Faires to shooting marshmallows with the President at the White House, he’s the embodiment of STEM education effectively motivating a new generation about science and engineering, while showing how it can take them to some pretty cool places. Along the way, he’s tackled challenges and found passion and talent — his mother Julie describes the transformation with excitement and pride. “He’s gone from a shy boy with Asperger Syndrome to now a young man that wants to talk to everyone!”

People want to talk with Joe too — the coverage he’s received from his endearing interaction with President Obama at the White House Science Faire has gone global (links: whitehouse.gov, HuffingtonPost, Daily Mail, Make blog, Gizmodothe Atlantic, ABC News, Washington Post, the Examiner, Popular Science, New York Times, and more). He’s recently been a featured author on Instructables, and received a special note of commendation on his Adafruit skills badge page. And not only is Joe an aspiring engineer, he’s also demonstrating a healthy entrepreneurial spirit, selling electronics kits via his website and fundraising to get him to three different Maker Faires in 2012.

Joe took time from his schedule to answer a few questions about how he got to the White House, and what he’s building next.

When did you start building?  I only started really seriously to build things a year ago. I’ve made stuff in the past just for fun.

How did you get so motivated?  I met a really cool man named Jeff from Elenco Electronics. I got in contact with them when my mom called to see if they had any Snap Circuits. Jeff Coda was the one who answered the phone. He helped me by giving me a soldering iron, oscilloscope, kits to learn to solder, bread boards, electrical components so I could learn more about electronics. He’s helped with with questions I’ve had too. He’s really cool.

What are some of the things you’ve made so far?  I have made the air cannon, 3x3x3 Led Cube Arduino Shield, catapult, lazer light show, blinky lights. My favorite was the air cannon.

Obviously, it’s a huge honor to get invited to be part of the White House Science Fair. How did that came about? What were your feelings like leading up to and during the event?  I was invited to go to the White House by Make and Cognizant. Make asked me and Cognizant sponsored me. I had met Make at Maker Faires. The whole experience was fun and exciting. I was nervous when I was talking to the president. I got to see a lot of sights while in DC.

Which Maker Faires did you attend? I’ve been to six of them so far.  I attended Maker Faire San Mateo, Detroit and New York last year, and a Mini Maker Faire here in Phoenix. At Bay Area I exibited for 2 hours in the Young Maker section. Then when I went to Detroit I wanted my own table. I showed the air cannon again and started LWJM.US (“look what joey’s making”). In New York I added my 3x3x3 LED Cue Arduino Shield Kit to the arsenal.

How much were you able to connect with President Obama? Other notable people? Any funny stories? Unfortunately, what you saw on the video of me with President Obama is all that happened. Bill Nye the Science Guy was there. I did make friends with a boy named Ben. Sorry no funny stories, well, I did have to solder in the White House. A wire came loose in the battery pack on the cannon — so I used my portable solder iron to fix it. Kinda fun!

How did you think up the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon?  I thought of the marshmallow cannon because I knew if you compressed air it would want to decompress. I wondered what would happen if I held the pressure and put it thru the valve. I first did one at school with a water bottle, I took the outside of a mechanical pencil and poked it thru the cap. Squeezed and out shot the air.

How many versions of the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon have you built so far?  Just the one.

What’s next on your build list? And what’s your ultimate “dream” project to make?  My build list is endless. I think the next big thing will be either a EL wire arduino shield or a 555 timer learn to solder kit. My ultimate dream project to make would be either to build my own Tesla Coil that is larger than me or a Punkin Chunkin Gun.

What kind of chunkers would you want to make?  Air Cannons because of the distance that they get and that it’s compressed air. My second choice would be human powered. I have built a trebuchet but the cannon goes farther.

Who would you like to most work with on a project?  The Mythbusters for sure!

You’re a few years away from college — are you going to pursue engineering?  I want to go to College for Electrical Engineering and work for Make. Right now — no other option!

What’s the best thing to come from all the fantastic attention you’ve gotten so far?  The best thing that has happened from all of this was being featured author on Instructables and receiving a custom  t-shirt from them.

Any advice to give others who are inspired by the stuff  you’ve done so far?  I would say to make whatever you want and don’t let others hold you back. If you ever need help with any project remember that you can go to a local hackerspace to get help, and of course Don’t be BORED…MAKE Something! 🙂