Meet a Maker: James Oplinger

This profile is part of a blog series called Meet a Maker, where we’re highlighting the experiences and insights of maker educators in Maker Ed’s programs.

The Basics

Full Name: James Logan Oplinger

Maker Ed Program, Site Name & Site Location: Maker Corps, Making & Tinkering @ ASU Camps, located at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center (within TechShop)

Hometown: Apache Junction, AZ

Background: Engineering (Electrical Systems) Student at Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus

Quirky Identifier: The Game “Collector” (because I own a lot of games but never find the time to play them)

Q&A with James

What is your earliest memory of making?

My earliest memory of making something would be making many types of creations with Legos, but to be honest I cannot remember the first time I played with Legos since they had been a large part of my childhood. One of the earlier creations I had made was a cyborg-esque creature after I made the Makuta set from Bionicles. I remember making the original and then tearing it apart and rebuilding it with other lego/Bionicle sets in order to make a much larger creature. I used to do this a lot with Legos, create what was on the box or in the instructions, and then take it apart and recreate what I wanted to make.

What aspect of making excites you the most? 

What excites me most about making is the open creativity to it. The making community is full of solutions or experiments that I would never have thought about doing, or at least not doing it the way the maker did it. I also enjoy the community mentality that a lot of Makers have, sharing their ideas, or teaching kids and/or the public about what they’re doing.

What is your favorite making project and/or tool at the moment?

My favorite project at the moment is an “alarm” I’m making with the Intel Galileo. It’s going to let me know via texting whenever my apartment door is opened, that way I know if maintenance came by, or if there’s an unexpected visitor. I like it because I have to learn how to use the internet with the Galileo and it is a useful tool for me personally.

My favorite tool at the moment is the Laser Cutter at TechShop Chandler, and the one at my school at ASU Polytechnic. I have these awesome ideas for backlit acrylic pictures for my “game room” in the apartment that I can’t wait to make.

What is the most positive experience you’ve had so far in your program? 

So far my most positive experience would be when I taught a crash-course Arduino lesson to our campers. For almost all of the campers this was their first time coding. One of the campers told me their favorite part was learning something new that they never saw themselves doing (coding), and applying it to make a cool project (flashing bottle lights). It was awesome hearing how much our campers enjoyed it!

If you could give one piece of advice to other educators, what would it be?

Encourage students/campers to help each other or ask each other for help before coming to you. We had a lot of campers in our Arduino project and a paper circuits project help each other out and it was really cool. We try to stay by the rule of if you don’t know how it works ask your partner or another group for help, if the two of you can’t get it working then come to us and we’ll help you figure out what’s wrong or how to fix it.

I also like to ask students questions to help lead them towards finding the answer themselves. My Engineering Project professor does this with my class a lot and it’s pretty useful in helping remember things I learned earlier when someone else asks me the question.

BONUS QUESTION: What is the most exotic food you’ve ever eaten?

The most exotic food I have ever eaten was a Lengua Torta. Basically a burger/sandwhich with cow tongue! It was so delicious. I love lengua burritos, tortas, tacos. I would never have tried it if I had known it was cow tongue, but I’m glad I did.

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