Tinker Tech: Turner's Charley Lind can make it real
TURNER, Dec 10, 2012 (Sun Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Like the next-generation computer processors Charley Lind helps design, his Make-It Pen isn't strictly real.
"It's whatever pen you happen to be holding," Lind said. "It's just a way to encourage people to realize they can build what they want."
The Make-It Pen is a game Lind plays with his three sons: If they can imagine something and commit it to paper, he'll help them make it real. It doesn't matter if it's an airplane, a rocket ship or a sword -- they'll do the math together and figure out how to bring it to life.
"It's just a concept we have," Lind said. "If they are drawing something like a sword or an airplane profile, they can have whatever they want right away. If they can draw it to scale, I'll help them build it."
So far, Lind and his sons have built a gold sluice to help find precious metals and gems in local streams, an underwater remote control robot, and numerous jets and other flying machines.
"My son wanted a water-rocket jetpack," Lind said. "So we did some math, and we figured out how much thrust a water rocket would give you. In the end, we couldn't build one that would let him fly. But we turned it into his Halloween costume. He was Boba Fett, and he had a water rocket that launched off of his back."
There is no limit to what the Make-It Pen can do, and Lind has devoted much of his life developing his own.
"When I was a kid, I had Saturday morning cartoons, pens and paper, and as much tape as I wanted," he said. "I sketched, and I crafted things with paper."
Lind, 40, works as a verification engineer for chipmaker NVIDIA. His current project, testing the specifications for a next-generation microprocessor for mobile phones and computers, is almost all in his head.
"It takes about a year and a half to design a chip, and you don't have a physical chip to work with," Lind said. "You spend all your time simulating in the computer. My job is finding flaws or bugs in the chip before it's built."
Lind thrives in that sort of an environment, but he's also a hands-on kind of guy.
"I work at home, and I'm working over the Internet," Lind said. "It takes a year and a half to make what I'm making, and I never get to touch it. So I need to have things I can actually do and touch."
That need inspired him to create all sorts of things -- parafoil kites, model rockets, launching racks for fireworks and model airplanes made from his own handmade parts.
That's what he decided to show at the Lewiston-Auburn Mini Maker Faire last summer.
Lind took one of his favorite pastimes, building foam model airplanes, and created a simple design just for the Mini Maker Faire -- a MIG-15 jet fighter. He usually assembles his models in his home workshop, using quarter-inch foam insulation from Lowe's, a hot-wire foam cutter and a hot glue gun.
That's the equipment he brought to the Mini Maker Faire, helping 43 young makers cut out and assemble their own flying foam MIG-15s.
"What I didn't anticipate was kids' using a 300-degree knife and hot glue gun," Lind said. "I didn't realize the audience would be so young. But they were able to do it, with help from their parents."
That brought him to his current big project, sort of: He's about one-third of the way through building his own computer numerical control machine, a robot-controlled cutting tool that will be able to carve material like wood, plastic or foam into any shape he can design.
At some point, he figures he'll even be able to use his CNC machine to carve the parts for another CNC machine.
"Talk about a Make-It Pen," he said. "When I finish this, I'll have a Make-It Robot."
He hopes to have his CNC machine carve out dozens of the pieces for his foam airplanes to bring to next summer's Lewiston-Auburn Mini Maker Faire.
"My goal is to make it easier to have more kids make airplanes," he said. "It's a trade-off. You're able to give more kids a chance to make something, but each one gets to do less."
Ultimately, Lind said he wants to bring the idea of the Make-it Pen to as many people as he can, showing them that if they can imagine it, they can build it.
"My ultimate goal for the Maker Faire was for each young maker to hold the Make-It Pen and do their own design and make it," he said. "I really was hoping there would be enough time to teach everyone to just do it and be creative."
Do you know a creative person with a technological bent We'd love to talk to them. Contact Staff Writer Scott Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter as Orange_me or call 207-689-2846.
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