Thomas, maker and geek

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Brief Profile

  • Thomas from Salinas, Monterey County, US-CA
  • Age 43, twin, married
  • Electrical engineer
  • lives in a detached house in the suburbs of a small city

Demographics / Curriculum Vitae

Since his formative years he has always been interested in how things work, and how to build and repair them. Growing up on a retired farm with an old barn that had a lot of mothballed farming machines turned out to be a great playing ground for him and his twin brother. They even managed to refurbish a tractor out of two wrecked ones and other scavenged parts.

One winter’s evening in 1985, Thomas’ father who worked as a teacher at a vocational school brought home an IBM Personal Computer. The school owned it and the purpose was that he could prepare some programming classes with it. This particular winter of 1985 turned out to be one of the most entertaining winters for the two brothers who were fascinated by the machine. So it was not a big surprise when both of them eventually became engineers. After university, Thomas got a job as a repair engineer in a service workshop for turbo generators in California where he and his wife settled.

In his spare time Thomas has always been very enthusiastic about making things with his hands. He learned a lot of his handiwork skills from his father and believes that skills are to be passed on to others if they are not to be forgotten. He always looks back on the loss of the knowledge which his grandparents had with regard to farming with regret as it was not passed on to his generation.

A day in the life of Thomas

After some early breakfast with his wife, Thomas rides half an hour with his electric bike to work where he has regular working hours. His wife works as a hospital pharmacist in a nearby hospital, which means that she often has to work on weekends. This works out just fine for Thomas as he also spends a significant amount of his weekends in the garden house which he calls his “tinker lab”. It has become quite an advanced little hobby workshop with standard tools but also two 3D printers and a portable CNC milling machine.

In the past few years Thomas has been turning their house into a smart home which is proving to be an ongoing transition. Several parallel unfinished installations in the kitchen and living room are not out of the ordinary in this household, sometimes to his wife’s chagrin. Not to mention the fact that he and his wife have a different understanding of aesthetics…She also sometimes stumbles across extensive monthly credit card bills from the nearby home improvement supply superstore or online purchases. However, she understands that he was like this when they met and so accepts it. Moreover, most of this eventually does lead to useful creations. For example, Thomas’ crafts activities have also extended to the garden where he has installed a complete automated watering system since they both love gardening.

Thomas has never been much of a talker but when it comes to technical things he becomes animated. He is curious about other similar projects or manuals he finds online and really likes to share his own creations, too for which he has started to use the platform Instructables some years back. He likes the feedback and the interaction he gets from sharing schematics, source code, and blueprints, which is why he set up a well-maintained GitHub repository that has some one hundred forks. Two years ago, he also became a member of a hacker space in a little town nearby and every other week spends his time after work there with other hackers who are really grateful to learn from his skills.

Leisure activities and interests

  • Creating and playing with all kinds of technology in his super-well equipped home laboratory
  • Making the home “smarter”
  • Gardening with his wife
  • Sharing his fascination with other people

Personal goals & values

Motivation to create: Thomas has been a creator since his childhood. He grew up taking all kinds of machines apart, much to the pleasure of his parents. So to repair, create or improve things is as natural as breathing for Thomas.

Vision: For Thomas, it is about following his interests and sharing his knowledge with others. He sees it as a hobby which fulfils him and he appreciates the great opportunity of sharing.

Motivation for openness: Since he really enjoys sharing ideas with other people at eye level and equally likes teaching and helping novice inventors, it was straightforward to make his activities open-source. On GitHub he has two different repositories: one expert repository with some half-baked stuff which is poorly documented, and one novice repository which is especially well-documented.

Communication and Interaction

Visiting the local hacker space for him is about learning. He sees it as a great opportunity to have contact with open and curious people. He also enjoys showing beginners how to craft and work in an open source environment, this in turn fulfils his desire of continuous learning. As of course by teaching others, he learns a great deal himself.