Featured Maker: Ken Olsen, Dawson Station Model Railroad

IMG_3682If you were at last year’s Eugene Mini Maker Faire, you may have noticed a table with an interesting juxtaposition of technologies — a model train set, right alongside the computer game Minecraft. The man responsible for putting these two projects was Ken Olsen. Ken is a hobbyist in such classic fields as model trains and rockets, but he is also fluent in the technologies that are now ubiquitous in the Maker world — Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Ken created Dawson Station as a way to showcase how Arduino could be incorporated into traditional model train sets to add a greater level of control. He tells us that “I was so excited by the idea that I just wanted to share it with as many people as possible.” This led him to exhibit at area model railroad shows even before he discovered Maker Faire.

(Oh, and the Minecraft? That was an experiment in getting kids interested in programming using the Raspberry Pi version of the popular game.)

Since developing Dawson Station, Ken has been involved in a variety of projects that use Arduino, and has offered workshops in Corvallis and around the Willamette Valley to get young people involved in using them. Lately he’s been working with ChickTech, a Portland-based organization that gets girls and women interested in technology.

After last year’s Faire, Ken took Dawson Station to the Portland Mini, where he exhibited for his largest audience to date. Ken reports that it was “exhausting, and a little overwhelming at times, especially being a two day event.” But he was amazed by “the energy and the diversity of exhibits.”

We’re very pleased to have Ken back in Eugene again this year, where he will be exhibiting Dawson Station again, as well as offering a live presentation on why “it’s an amazing time to be a maker!” If you’d like to meet Ken and see Dawson Station in action, be sure to join us on June 7. And if you have an Arduino project like Ken’s that you’d like to share with our visitors, there’s still time to apply to be a maker. We hope to see you here!

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