Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that is characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, many people with Asperger’s display intense interests. This could be true in the case of Joe Hudy, a 15 year old inventor who wowed President Obama during a visit to the White House.
Hi Joe, can I please start by asking you tell me about yourself?
My name is Joe, I’m 15 years old. I will be attending High School in August. I have Asperger Syndrome. I love to build, program, design, solder and talk to my MAKE friends. I live in Arizona with my mom, dad and sister – Elizabeth. This summer I’m working as an intern at Microchip and being a Beta tester for MAKE. It has been fun and I’m learning a lot. I really want to work for MAKE someday.
What led to you meeting President Obama and what did you think of him and the White House?
Cognizant and MAKE were asked to send two kids to the White House Science Fair. They choose me. It was cool meeting President Obama. The White House was neat to see, all the security was intense. They sent out dogs to sniff all of our projects.
How did you come up with the idea of the air canon? Was it difficult to make? Why marshmallows?
I came up with the idea for the cannon from being bored at school. I made a little air pressured thing with a water bottle, and then I decided to make a bigger one. I checked on line to make sure my design idea wasn’t like anyone else’s. It wasn’t that difficult to make. I made it with Home Depot; the worst part was the smell of the glue! Marshmallows were the only thing my mom would let me use. I have put marbles down the barrel with the marshmallows to see if it went farther. We also tried a cut apple – that just made a mess in the barrel and looked like apple sauce flying thru the air.
What led you to start inventing? What was your inspiration?
I’ve always liked making and taking things apart, mostly because I was bored at school. Last year was my first Maker Faire. Our friend Jeff Cota from Elenco Electronics convinced my mom to take me to the Maker Faire. That’s where it all began. I guess my inspiration was getting to be with other people that understood me. And I love to make stuff!
What was the first thing that you made and how old were you?
I’ve made a lot of little things, but the first ‘real’ thing was a catapult (age 13) which I made with wood
What ambitions do you have for the future?
I want to be an Electrical Engineer, and work for MAKE.
What problems occurred if any whilst designing or making the launcher and how did you overcome them?
In building the cannon there really wasn’t any problem.
When we went to Maker Faire New York last year the airlines had broken it. One of the pipes was snapped in half. That was probably the worst problem.
Can you explain any struggles that you have had to face in your life?
The only real struggles I’ve had are finding my age friends that have the similar interests. All but 3 of my friends are adults which is cool. Having Autism really hasn’t been too much of a struggle – it’s helped more.
What do your friends think of your project and subsequent fame?
They think it’s cool. They thought it was cool that I meet the President. I’m just the same kid.
Do you have any other projects in the making or on the design board?
I am currently working on a bunch of stuff; I have a lot of project – Tesla Coil being one. I have a 3x3x3 LED Cube Arduino Shield Kit for sale. It’s a beginner kit for soldering and using Arduino. I am mostly doing a lot of Beta testing now.
Whilst demonstrating at a Maker Fair, Joey was surprised by Eben and Liz Upton of The Rasberry Pi Foundation who handed him one of the first ever made Raspberry Pi.
Do you have any other interests that you would like to share with people?
I like to read, and like Harry Potter. I have a dog named Tessa after Nikola Tessla.
All kids need to know that they can do anything – they just need to try.
“Don’t be bored…MAKE something!”