Tell us a little bit about yourself and the fountain
For 30 years I worked for a defense company in Southern California where I developed a passion for embedded controllers, electronics, mechanics, fluid dynamics and building things. The fountain is a culmination of all the skills I developed over my career.
What was the inspiration for your project?
My family began vacationing in Grand Haven in 2001 and it became a family tradition to visit the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. In 2004, I began to wonder if it would be possible to create a working scale model of the fountain as a good father-son project. We met fountain operators and maintainers. We were given tours of the fountain. We obtained the original William Booth patent and drawings. We visited local hardware stores and home improvement stores. Eventually, we figured out the smallest scale possible using off-the-shelf parts and identified every component that we would need. We began building the fountain in 2007. While we were building the fountain, Grand Haven created a website that allowed the public to choreograph shows. My son developed a passion for choreography and created over 20 songs for the fountain. We planned on playing his choreography on our model fountain as well as the shows that run nightly in Grand Haven from May to September every year.
How long did it take to create your project?
It took eight years for us to complete the project, from concept to first show.
As a maker, what inspires you?
Ever since I was a young child, I wondered how things work. When I watched cartoons on television as a young boy in the 1950s, I wondered what was connected to the knob that changed the channels. In those days, TVs were made with a big knob that made a loud clunking sound to change the channels. I wondered, “What was that knob connected to?” “What was changing inside?” Years later I looked inside a TV tuner and was not impressed. All I saw were electrical contacts and little coils of wire. I wondered how that changed the channels. My father bought some books for me on electricity and I learned what was happening. My father drew a schematic drawing, brought parts home, taught me to solder and I built a shortwave receiver from coils of wire that I wound myself. I listened to radio stations in foreign countries and sent away for QSL cards that they kindly sent back. I realized that this skill can touch the world. I built an AM transmitter, morse code oscillator and other assorted projects. I visited a laboratory that my father worked in that had an analog computer to calculate satellite orbit and map a route for the Surveyor spacecraft to land on the moon. I was hooked for life on designing and building things. It has been a lifelong hobby and profession.
What are you most looking forward to at Maker Faire Detroit this year?
I would like to talk with other makers and exchange ideas, show my project to the public, and possibly inspire young people to wonder how things work.