Meet a Maker: Randy Glenn

Hello!  Recently, the team over at Maker Junior, put me in charge of writing blog posts. We collaboratively decided to start a new blog series called “Meet a Maker”, where we ask makers in or around our community about how they started making and about what they make. Our first interview is with Randy Glenn.

We’ve met Randy and his crew at Surreality Labs at Maker Faire in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Randy makes a variety of different things, ranging from awesome pinball machines to equally as awesome Maker Faire badges. Randy is a really cool guy and I hope that you enjoy learning a little bit more about him.

What/Who inspired you to start making?

“I think that would be my parents - I don't exactly remember when I started messing around with making stuff, but my parents both supported me tinkering and taking things apart (and not often putting them back together, at first!). My dad works with computers and knows a fair bit about electronics, so that's where I got that from - he would always help me on science projects, and showed me what he was doing when fixing things. My parents also did a lot of home renovations and repairs themselves, so I had a lot of exposure through that.”

A Stormtrooper playing Pinball

What is your favourite project that you've ever made?

“That keeps changing, but right now I'd say it's a tie between the DIYPinball pinball machines, and the Maker Faire Ottawa badges from 2015. The badges were a lot of work to put together, and even though they didn't work as well as I'd hoped, people had a lot of fun with them, and it's a really amazing feeling to see a bunch of people walking around, wearing and using something you built and designed.

The pinball machines are a favourite because there are so many different parts that we had to design and build, or fix from the original machine - and getting them all working together to the point where you can actually play pinball is something we're really proud of. We learned a lot, and had a lot of fun, just getting them to the point where we can play them. Actually playing pinball on them is tons of fun, too!”

The DIY Pinball Team

Did you like school? What was your favourite subject?

“I did like school, though I think I liked it more as I went up through it. Up until about grade 8, I think my favourite subjects were Math, Science, Computers, and Design Technology - basically shop class.

Once I got to high school, those subjects got a fair bit harder, but waaaaay more interesting. Because I had some really great teachers, subjects like English - which I hadn't enjoyed before - were a lot more fun. I also got to take a bunch of courses that were interesting, but just not offered in lower grades - Accounting was one I really enjoyed. I think because the classes in high school were more interesting, I had an easier time concentrating on them - my grades improved a fair bit in high school. My favourite subjects here were Math, Physics, and Computer Programming.

University was different altogether. At least in my program (Computer Engineering at McMaster University), it felt like the first 2.5-3 years were just preparing you for the last 1-1.5 years, when stuff got REALLY interesting. I had classes in how things like computer processors and networks actually work, which they were a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The best part about University, though, was that I made a ton of friends who were also interested in similar things to me - and who also wanted to build stuff. We all helped each other learn and try new projects, and had access to a lab with electronics gear and space to build things. Some of the people I do the Pinball stuff with - Mike, Danny, and Alan - I met through student activities in University. So I'd say my favourite subject in University was Making.” 

Did you like to make stuff when you were a kid?

“I definitely did. I did a lot of stuff with Lego and Meccano, and did a fair bit of programming in BASIC. I took apart a whole bunch of broken stuff, and always meant to build it into something new, but frequently never quite got that far. It wasn't until I was in high school that I got more experience actually building things and fixing things - one year I got to take the school's digital camera home for Christmas break, because I was fixing the power adapter for it. I think this was around 1998, so they were very new and incredibly expensive. I did manage to fix it - without breaking anything else! :)”

Randy Glenn

I hope you guys enjoyed this blog post, and let me know what you think of this series so far.

Signing off for now,


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