Name: Elijah (Bunk-E Bear) Horland
Location: BROOKLYN. The one in New York City.
Day Job: Student / Maker / MythBuster
Do you attend a makerspace/fablab/hackerspace?
Thanks to some luck, I keep my own space and recently inherited an entire construction site of tools. I’d love to start working with a makerspace in Brooklyn.
What kinds of stuff do you make?
More than anything else, I build things with a Raspberry Pi. It’s my main platform. It was my first platform, and I never stop finding new things to do with them. It’s like having an all purpose tool that’s just always there and always reliable. Like Minecraft and Lego (which both work with the Pi), it’s a “thing” I don’t think I’ll outgrow.
3d Printers are a lot of fun for me. My first one was a “bare parts” rep-rap style 3mm printer, my second was a prebuilt – I won it in a contest. My third was a mostly-built kit. In each case the companies behind them gave me great support. That should be its own story. I do all of my design work in tinkercad.
Soldering kits and scratch built circuitry projects are also big on my maker-list. I really have fun building game kits, lights kits, sound kits, LED structures, counters and just about anything. It’s fun to do reviews of them, On my blog, I once posted a “rubric” of how I grade kits. I once had a little pushback from a company about a rating “lower than 5” and wanted to explain what my numbers mean. If you rate everything too high, it reduces the value of the review. Wanna know something funny? The company agreed. We still communicate well. Sometimes they send me gifts.
Chopsticks. Rotary tools. Hot glue. Heat gun. Cardboard. School glue. I use them for just about anything. Not every project needs a 3d printer. I once made a working eclipse adapter for a camera with a surplus lens, some old cardboard, and sone leftover cinefoil. I tested it with a strong UV light and some UV reactive rocks, and it was entirely safe to use. A professional photographer ended up using it successfully on the day of the big 2017 eclipse.
How did you get started making stuff?
Starting at 5 years old, I used to win the engineering kits at play-ticket arcades. Balloon kits and LED crank-up lights were the extent of my skill, but it was a good start. I moved on to building computers for myself & others starting in December, 2013 at 8 years of age.
I knew by then, that building electronic things was what I liked to do the most. After coming home from a residential summer program in 2015 when I was 10, I started building soldering kits and soon moved on to 3d printing and self-designed electronic builds. The next year I attended World Maker Faire 2016, my first time attending any Maker Faire. I met with makers such as “Same Old Shane” who was working with Prusa at the time, Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist, Vincent from Maker’s Collective, the crew at Velleman Inc., the 2600, the Google crew and many others. I even met my good friend Ray Rumore and his robot Volt for the first time that day.
The encouragement and good advice I got made me feel like I’d finally found the “Maker” world. That year, working with Velleman, IC Station, Evil Mad Scientist and Solarbotics I was able to review dozens of fun soldering and building kits. Some were provided for review but most I purchased for my reviews. This was a year of pure fun building vu-meters, crawling robots, LED cubes, and anything else I could find. Velleman even sent me a new Digital Soldering Iron when they thought it would help. By the time I returned to World Maker Faire a year later for the 2017 festival, I’d already been working on the MythBusters Jr. project with Beyond Productions for a few months. I had also just won the MicroCenter “Rule the School” project. That’s when I met Samantha Snyder, who has been introducing me to the 3D printing and Cosplay world in person and on Twitter ever since. 2018 was like a maker whirlwind. From school and the spring science fair, attending the Bay Area Maker Faire for the first time the next week, then starting to shoot the MythBusters Jr. series only two weeks later, I worked non-stop well into the first week of September and the start of school again. Imagine my surprise to find that I was returning to my third World Maker Faire with my Co-Stars as a panel speaker along side Adam Savage and super-maker Jen Schachter. 2019 started with a real bang, pun intended. I got to see myself on TV, for 10 episodes of MythBusters Jr., aired on the Science Channel. You can still see them on the Science Channel website and app, and also on the Hulu streaming service. After so much work and time, I was thrilled to see it all go on air, especially when I got to see they kept my self-produced segment on how hard drives work. So many great scenes never made the final edit. I found out about it the same time all the viewers did.
Spring 2019 was my last “flagship” Maker Faire. At the OKDo booth, I was able to work alongside Samantha, Matt Stultz the Maker Faire legend, and Ole Valeur who’s a maker with more ideas and energy than any other I’ve ever met. I got to hang out with Calvin Witt, Joel Telling, Calramon Mabalot, Omkar Govil-Nair and other old friends. I also met an entire room full of new maker personalities too many to number and name. A big part of the fun was when headline maker-talent like Massimo Banzi and Allen Pan came over to my booth to meet me.
What is something that you’ve made that you’re really proud of?
It’s a big list, and I’ll go in order. My Altioids-box video game console was one of the first things I was known for, and it was a lot of fun to make, and its where I started using power tools for the first time. It was covered in MakeZine and was the biggest thrill that 11-year-old me could have imagined. Later, my servo-aimed laser-cutting rig got disqualified from my school’s science fair, which went from disappointment to a source of accomplishment in only a few weeks. That was when I learned that if a failure made no sense, I had to keep pushing it. A total disaster of a science presentation day was turned around when MakeZine ran a feature article on the lasers and how I built them. A fail became a win, like stumbling on a staircase and winding up a few steps above where you started. My first 3d printer was a “true parts” reprap-style kit from Velleman – the k8200. It’s a rudimentary machine with 3mm filament and it makes some rough prints. A true parts kit is one that comes with nothing pre-built and can be a struggle to build. I’m glad I started there, because now almost no 3d printer has “scary tech.” I can take apart and rebuild almost any commercial printer when they break, and that’s a huge advantage.
Lately I’ve been carrying around an ultrasonic levitator, larger and a little more powerful than the standard model. I really enjoy watching people at Maker Faires play with it, everyone has a lot of fun, and that’s one of my favorite parts of any project. It also started life as a disqualified science project. It was my second time “Failing Up.” Making a season of the show “MythBusters Jr.” is close to the top of my list.
Imagine how a kid from South Brooklyn feels, standing alongside a group of Co-Stars like Allie Weber, Cannan Huey-You, Jesse Lawless, Rachel Pizzolato and Valerie Castillo. It was more of an affirmation than I’d ever expected when I started “Maker-ing.” Making the show, I got to stand toe to toe with maker adults I’d only ever seen on TV or read about in Magazines like Sophy Wong, Adam Savage, Tamara Robertson and I even got to meet Jon Lung from the new MythBusters.
I also got to spend time with good friends from Maker Faire who made me feel right at home. My third big “Fail Up” was when I lost a cooler that I had dropped from a high-altitude balloon, nearly 24 kilometers above Binghamton NY. Just 500 meters after the balloon popped and my box was coming back to earth, the parachute ripped away and it tumbled to earth. I climbed up a 1500m muddy rock mountain in the rain but was never able to find it. I went to Bay Area Maker Faire 2019 with my levitator, which was the “back up” project in case the balloon failed.
It was the shock of the year, when on my way to my first big meeting with OKDo, when I got video of a group of kids from Montrose Area High School in Pennsylvania. Professor Anthony McKennas and his students including Anne-Michayla went up that same mountain and GPS tracked my missing gondola, returning it intact. Video analysis suggests that the box became airborne and created lift from its weight, body shape, and balance. The entire saga wound up on WNEP TV covered by meteorologist Alexandra Gallo. Best “fail”, ever.
With all the projects I’ve done, kits and builds successes and fails, my own ideas and my copies of other people’s work, work with friends and famous makers, my favorite build has to go go my “HackAPumpkin” projects. What started as a small group of people making pumpkin related projects for MythBusters Jr. co-star Allie Weber’s yearly challenge has grown into year three to include almost every “Maker” and “Young Scientist” I’ve ever read about, seen on YouTube or worked with.
The great number of people involved this year is fun, but not the best part. I love it most when a project includes as many disciplines as possible and very few of my engineering, electronics or robotics builds have had as much “art” involved as these pumpkins. In my first year, I did three “Pumpkin Portraits.” One of Allie as a dinosaur, one of Julie Sage who’s a young aspiring astrophysicist and YouTube science personality, and one of maker-extraordinaire Becky Button, who’s wifi disrupting sandals were the big hit of the 2017 World Maker Faire. 3d-printed insets and props, kinetic-sculpted appearances, and even a little electronics flair made the project “sing” to me as I made it.
Last year again, I took work I’d already been doing on a technical side and added both art and fun to it. Using the Google/Raspberry Pi “AIY Vision” kit I was able to mashup SMS text, web file sharing, artificial intelligence, toys and existing builds all into one fun “thing.” It was art, design, new skills and old all in one. By the time it was all done, it was a cat-dog-human detector that gave humans a light show, and pets a fun laser-toy to chase.
What did I “make” that I’m the “MOST proud of?” Friends. All the friends I made along the way are the best part of all of this. I’ve tried to list as many of the people who helped me along the way as I could. There are so many more. It’s not just about name-dropping, my friends have taken me everywhere along the way, none of this could have happened without them. They’re in this article because my story is really about them.
What is next on your project list?
I’m stuck in the mud on my own Tesla-coil design and I’m struggling with finishing it. It’s for a friend. I’m only a few steps from done with the modification of my Velleman k8200 into the k8204 hi-res printer. Perhaps I’ll extend the bed and make an assisted leveling sensor for it too. I have a design for Calc-You-Later, a modified version of my old Altoids video game kit, this time I want to fit it into a casio-style scientific calculator.
The only thing I’m still struggling with is integrating the existing buttons and pads into a Raspberry Pi GPiO and also emulating the calculator itself as an “emergency screen saver” type of thing. One of these days I’ll finish my old nemesis, the Velleman Sound Star. It’s not a tough kit at all but somehow I always miss one detail. Maybe this holiday season I’ll post one completed.
This summer I had to stretch into a new set of skills entirely outside of my comfort zone. I have an idea for a “kid-produced” event near my home, working with my friends. I’ve been meeting with venues, co-producers, services, local community groups and political figures in order to make it happen. If it works, soon I’ll need to develop stronger administrative and event organizing skills. I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been up to.
what is something you’d like to work with but you haven’t yet?
My Arduino skills are mostly cut and paste. I’d like to learn more of it’s nuances. I want to build a Delta 3d printer from a “true parts” kit or from scratch. I think an oversized printer is also called for, something like a Crealty CR-10 oversized modification. I’m looking to expand my range of motors and treads, tank robots look like fun. I might just try one of the quadruped robot from the most recent copy of Make: Magazine too.
Any advice for people reading this?
If you’re thinking of getting started, just get started. Ask for help. Copy the stuff you like, modify it to your own needs when it works. Build things from the most granular parts the first time, whenever you can. The experience is the reward. After building up from scratch or from near-scratch, you will never be “enclosed” in a project you can’t fix for yourself. We may loose our right to repair but our right to make it ourselves to begin with is still strong. Only work for “exposure” when you really believe in and want to work with the people and companies involved. That being said, I’ve only ever worked for pay once, on TV.
Are you going to show off at a maker faire in the near future? If so, which one?
I’ll be showing off at a school maker faire in Eastern Long Island in just a week or so, but in November 2019, you can see my Levitator at both the York County Mini-Maker Faire where I’ll be appearing with MythBusters Jr. co-star Allie Weber and also at the Rochester Maker Faire on my own. I hope to have exciting news to share in the near future about Maker Faire appearances a little closer to home.