If you’ve been a part of the community for any amount of time, you are sure to have run into liquidhandwash. From designing a Go Cart, to growing vegetables in a Vermiponic Garden, if it can be done, liquidhandwash has tried it and wrote an Instructable on it. As a teacher, writing Instructables and inspiring his students through doing, he truly embodies what Instructables is all about. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his interests and how he gets his inspiration.
When did you first start making things?
Kids these days don't know how to have fun. When I was a kid there was only one channel on the fish tank, and to prevent Brain Pox, we weren't allowed indoors during the day. We made our own fun. I remember shooting homemade bows and arrows, blowing up mother's kitchen while making hydrogen in the sink, crash testing a fence with a motorized billy kart, and I got into electronics after I made a taser from radio parts. We also made fireworks and rockets, and Grandmother nearly had a stroke when a large rocket went off course and blew up on her front porch.
While still at school, I got a part-time job at a car wreckers where I learned how to pull things apart and fix them, and later I got an apprenticeship as an automotive engineer. As part of the job I built a lot of hotrods, trailers, and lots of vehicle modifications. Sadly, times got tough in New Zealand, and it was very hard to find work in my area so I did some teacher training and ended up teaching engineering to high school kids in Victoria, Australia.
Tell us about your workspace.
I have number of work spaces. The school I work at has a woodworking area with a table saw, bandsaw, miter saw, thicknesser, and all the power tools and hand tools you could ever want or need to build a project. Next door is the metal working area where I spend most of my time with the kids. It has a lathe, welders, power hacksaw, tube bender, and sheet metal tools. Over the last few years, I've been developing the digital Fabrication area and it now has a laser cutter, 3D printers, CNC router, and a vinyl cutter. There is also equipment to build electronics and play with Arduino.
Many of my Instructables are based around lessons for the kids. As I don't have enough equipment for all of them to do the same thing at the same time, using Instructables allows me to have several projects going at once. The kids can work at their own pace, and we all know what's going on. At home I have a garage that has way too much junk inside, it mostly gets used for making biodiesel and storing tools. There is another room area in the house, where I have prizes from Instructables, 3D printers and electronic stuff. There is also a carport where I often fix cars, or do larger projects, and if all else fails I have a friend with a large engineering workshop I can borrow he has a CNC plasma cutter and CNC lathe.
What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration when deciding what to make?
I get ideas from all over the place. Often someone will have a problem that they have or something they want fixed. Working at a school I certainly get no shortage of that. If It gets to be too much I usually fake senility: “Why didn't you get something useful, like a nice pipe organ? Ow, my glaucoma just got worse!" Other times projects are a variation of something I've seen, or an Instructable can spark an idea that can be completely unrelated to what I've just seen. I've always got my eyes open for stuff I can pull apart or fix, and if I can help someone less fortunate, that's always good. I've got a bit of a passion for anything off grid, and I'm always playing around with solar panels, bio fuels, batteries, and anything I can recycle, reuse, repair, or reinvent.
Will you tell us about some of the other designers and/or other Instructablers whose work you admire? Why?
Tim Berners Lee, Nikola Tesla, and Elon Musk, would be the top three as they are all not only brilliant but are motivated to make the world a better place for everybody. Tesla invented AC power and many other devices, then gave the patent away so everyone could have it. Tim Berners Lee invented the internet and also gave his patent away so everyone could have it. Then, recently Elon Musk did the same thing with his electric car patent. I see the same sort of spirit in many of the Instructablers who have some great ideas and then go to a lot of time and effort to document their work and share it with everybody for no other reason than to make the world a better place for everyone.
I really enjoy simple projects that some of the members have done, that make me slap my forehead and say “why didn't I think of that!” Projects like the Propane Bench Seat, Super Simple Chicken Feeder, or the Watch Box. Who knew you could make a box with just two pieces?
What are your goals, plans, or hopes for your future projects?
I hope to do many more Instructables that are useful to my students, to make them independent learners. Instructables allows me to minimize the talking and maximize the doing, something that is sadly lacking in the education system. Over the next few months, I hope to do a few more electronic and Arduino based projects for my students. I've also got a number of personal projects on the go that I need to document like an LPG powered battery charger for off-grid house batteries. Also, solar hot water heaters, improvements to the little CNC mill, and I would like to build an off-grid straw bale house, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon.
What kind of robot would you make?
Err, I've got to know about the robots now? I would've liked to have drawn the Instructables robot Grandpa Simpson style, but I'm not that good at drawing that I would want anyone to see it..... Given enough time and money, I would like to build a robot or drone that could detect land mines and dispose of them. There has been some great work with infrared cameras been able to detect objects underground as different materials heat or cool at different speeds. A drone is put up at dusk to look for hot or cool spots on the ground. Lots of ancient ruins in Egypt have been mapped using this method. My dream robot would either map the mines or shoot them from the air. Or a land base bot could then be sent in to dispose of the mine. It would be great to make the robot simple enough that the local people could repair and operate them.
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