Maker Interviews: Rick Osgood

Rick Gesture

Rick Osgood has played a big part in bringing the maker movement to Eugene.  He cofounded Eugene Maker Space, he produces a maker YouTube channel, and he still finds time to write for Hackaday.   We asked him about all that.

“Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes, walking through the hardware store you see some tool you’ve never seen before and it will immediately give you an idea.” — Rick

Q: When and how did you become a maker?

Rick Osgood: When I was a kid, I always wanted to make things. I didn’t have the know-how or the permission to use the fun tools, but I can remember always feeling like I wanted to make something. Anything really. When I was around 11 or 12 I took apart a few electronic toys are started hooking up the wires to see if I could make the parts move. I used to build with LEGO and Erector Set and played with those old electronic hobby sets where you hooked up the pieces using wires attached to springs. I can remember seeing something on TV once about a raft built out of empty 2-liter bottles. I got my friend to help me make our own. We stuck an electric motor on the back and rode the raft in his pool. It leaked and sunk rather quickly, but it was so much fun anyway. Around age 12 or 13 I got really into computers and moved away from making things in the physical world and into programming and learning about how computers worked.

It wasn’t until college that I started playing with the BASIC stamp and eventually Arduino. These things opened up a whole world of possibilities. I was able to take my programming experience and apply it back to the physical world using microcontrollers. I had sort of come full circle. Once I started making electronic projects, I often found that I needed physical pieces to support them. This meant I had to learn a bit about wood working, metal working, and various other hobbies. Now I get to use all those fun tools that I didn’t have permission to use when I was a kid. Since then I haven’t stopped learning. I tend to pick up new skills as I need them and learn them just enough to satisfy me. Then I move on to something else. At this point if there’s something I want to make, I generally just do some research and learn whatever skills I need to get the job done. This is so easy now with the Internet. You can learn anything from YouTube.

Q: Did you show something at Eugene Maker Faire 2014? 2013?

Rick: I represented Eugene Maker Space each year so far, but I have brought some of my own projects to showcase. The first year I brought a pneumatic paper rocket launcher. This thing is great because kids and adults can build a rocket out of a piece of paper and some masking tape. Then they can launch the rockets up to a couple hundred feet using just air pressure. People love this thing and it helps get the attendees into making,

Last year I brought a paper airplane launcher that I had designed and built. It looks like a crossbow but it acts more like a slingshot. It uses a piece of latex tubing to launch paper airplanes forward. The range depends on how well the airplane design is. I remember during the Eugene Maker Faire that year, a critical piece of the launching mechanism actually wore down and broke. I rushed into the Science Factory’s wood shop and managed to make a replacement in a few minutes. Unfortunately that one broke too! Then I realized the answer was right in front of me the whole time. We brought our 3D printer to the faire! I quickly measured the broken piece and re-designed it in Sketchup. Then we printed it out in just a few minutes and now I have a piece that is much stronger, and also has less friction which increases performance. It was an awesome example of how a 3D printer can be useful.

Q: What are you planning for Eugene Maker Faire 2015?

Rick: I’ll be there representing Eugene Maker Space again this year. We might bring back the paper rocket launcher since it’s always such a big hit. I haven’t decided for sure what I’ll be bringing, but I’ll make sure there is something fun and interactive. I did build a leather shoulder holster last year for my Uncharted Nathan Drake costume that I’m particularly proud of and I’d like to bring that. I had no experience with leather working when I began that project but I think the final result is just fantastic.

Q: What projects have you made recently?

Rick: I just finished building a very simple and inexpensive stand-up desk for my work computer. Sitting all day gives me bad posture and back problems. I didn’t want to spend the money on a big, heavy, expensive desk when I just needed something basic. I ended up building something very simple out of PVC pipe from Jerry’s and a leftover piece of plywood I found at Eugene Maker Space. I spent around $20 on the whole thing and it works just fine for my needs. It also is not glued together, so it can easily break down and fit into my car if I need to move it for any reason.

Q: How do you get your project ideas?

Rick: Most of my ideas come from things I see online. I either see a project and just have to try it myself, or the project inspires me with something similar. For example, I once built a fire tornado because I saw the concept on a YouTube video. I wanted to build one myself, but I wanted to use my own design based on my understanding of how it worked. The end result worked well, and I eventually scaled up the experiment and built a tornado that was taller than me. Inspiration can come from anywhere really, though. Sometimes just walking through the hardware store you might see some component or tool you’ve never seen before and it will immediately give you an idea for how you could use it.

Q: You cofounded both HeatSync Labs in Arizona and Eugene Maker Space here in Eugene. Why are maker spaces important?

Rick: Makerspaces encourage creativity, engineering, art, science, and community. They are generally inexpensive and they serve as a location full of resources for local people to get together and have a good time innovating. I believe that they also can fill a gap that is being created by a lack of funding in public schools. With more shop classes and art classes getting shut down, it’s important for people to have a place to go where they can learn these valuable and fun skills. Makerspaces can fill that gap and allow people to learn in their own way on their own time. The best part is that it’s not for kids and it’s not for adults. It’s not for boys or for girls. It really is for everyone. You just have to want to learn new things and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Q: You have a popular YouTube channel. How did you get started there?

Rick: Well I know I like making things and I was trying to find a way to turn that into a career, or at least a nice side income. I have seen many other popular YouTubers post their projects online and gain many subscribers, sometimes into the millions. I already have a blog where I document my projects, so I figured moving into video would be a logical next step. I have some experience with video editing, so I knew it was something I could do if I wanted. I knew it would take dedication and persistence though, so I decided to put out one video every single week for the first year. I ended up succeeding in that goal with the exception of a vacation that I took. I have a little over 3000 subscribers now, and I’ve scaled back the quantity of videos, because they take a lot of effort and time to produce but they have a low return. It is something I intend to continue doing, though. It always feels really good when someone leaves a comment on a video to let me know that my work has helped them in some way. I don’t know how many people have repaired their Nissan Altima stereo’s using my video as a reference. I’ve saved a bunch of people hundreds of dollars in repairs simply because the manufacturer used a cheap three dollar part in the stereo.

Fire Tornado

Q: What are you planning for the future on YouTube?

Rick: Since I started writing for Hackaday in 2014, I’ve scaled back my YouTube videos and increased the amount of time I spend writing for them. It just makes more financial sense for me. That being said, I do want to continue making videos. Lately I’ve been rather lazy about it but I think it’s more of a lack of ideas that excite me. I’m just waiting for a project idea that really gets me excited. Those ideas are always the best and I think they lead to better videos. I’d like to make more RickGyver videos. I’ve only made two so far. Partially this is because they have very low view counts. The main reason though is that it’s tough to come up with a good idea that can be placed in a narrative that I can write, film, and act in all by myself. I like to do everything myself whenever possible because relying on other people means there is more opportunity for delays, scheduling conflicts, or other problems.

Q: How does writing for Hackaday work?

Rick: Hackaday was looking for writers in 2013. I applied a couple of times and eventually they got back to me and offered me the job. Basically, I just look for projects that I think are cool and that Hackaday readers would also find cool. This is pretty easy for me since I’ve been reading Hackaday since 2005. I try to write ten articles every week. Featuring projects on Hackaday is a great way to get someone’s name out there and get their work seen. Hackaday has a lot of readers after all these years and they are only growing!

Q: What have you seen at Maker Faire that you especially liked?

Rick: The whole Maker Faire is such a spectacle that I think it, itself, is just awesome. You literally can’t look in any direction and not see something amazing. The Bay Area Maker Faire has some huge installations every year. The singing Tesla coils by Arc Attack is something that I always catch at least once every time I go (I’ve been seven times I think). The life sized Mouse Trap contraption is also a must-see if you haven’t ever seen it before. I really like the electric bicycles at Eugene Mini Maker Faire, as well as the robots that the SERT robotics team always bring.

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