Ah where do I start?
A short while ago I went to the British Tech Networks bash in Birmingham with a friend. I’ve known him since he was 13 and we’ve played computer games against each other, eaten together and run a youth group together for years now. Every Friday night he and I and a group of friends run a youth group on a council estate (and have done for 17 years now, every Friday in term time, although Nick’s only been a leader for 6 or so years I think), not every Sunday night we meet up at a friends house and play computer games. Generally I lose but, depending on the game, he loses more 🙂
What’s most interesting about Nick is that he makes things. Cool things. Amazing things. And at the Tech Network show he showed off one of the most amazing things he’s created: the bullet proof segway.
(Both photos: James Kenny).
So in a crowded garden, on a wooden patio, he drove the USB powered creation for all to see and when the rain stopped he drove it on the pavement in front of the house. That’s not the coolest thing though. He made it in a week, he designed the version you see above, cut the polycarbonate, pieced it together and implemented all of the machinery. He did most of the code for balancing the gyrscopes as well, from what I understand (although to be honest he starts talking technical jiggery pokery and my eyes glaze over).
That’s not the coolest thing. With the exception of the polycarbonate the fully working Segway is made from bits of broken machinery and equipment that his workplace, a kitchen tool engineering firm, let him take home if they don’t want them anymore. Astounding. He’s Ant and Dec meets the A-Team.
You can see a video of the Segway working here:
He’s also made a range of odd and extraordinary machines, projectile delivery devices (I probably can’t say the ‘g’ word) and, well all sorts of coolness. Nick and I collaborated on an art exhibition earlier in the year and nothing sat next to iPad artwork as well as photos of hand crafted strange machinery.
(USB powered working mini-coil gun. Photo: me).
You can see some of his inventions on his website here: http://www.thatch-industries.webs.com/ and see him talk for six minutes about a range of crazy inventions, including a temporarily working plastic pulse jet, laser gun, coil guns and all sorts here:
Why mention him? Because he’s the 21 year old sequel to James Dyson, a young person who makes me smile when he gets that faraway look in his eye and says ‘ you know, I could build…..’ and you know he could, he just needs the backing, the supporting and more. I have hopes and dreams for myself as an artist but, equally, I’d love to see him get to build the things he wants to make, because they would be awesome. I’d also love to see the Stig ride the Segway around the Top Gear track, and the things Nick wants to build next would look equally good being raced and being timed. The budget for materials he clocked in at £500 for his next machine. What he needs is a garage and someone filming the process…
Hmmm wonder if that will ever happen… I really hope so, it deserves to be and, as has often been the case for me in youth work, the public assertion that kids these days are less interesting, vibrant, creative or technical is not really true. Maybe you have to search more for the most unusual kids but I’ve worked with some fab young people over the past 20 years. Long may that continue…