Maker Spotlight: Buddha Buck

Meet the makers! This is part of our series of posts introducing you to some of our spectacular members.

Meet Buddha Buck – a founding member of Ithaca Generator who just completed his 500th staffing shift.

You’re a founding member – tell us about your part in IG’s origin story.

I had been hearing about Maker/Hackerspaces for a while before IG came about. My family ran a small manufacturing company when I was growing up, which got me interested in various skills for making things — soldering, electronics, cad work, light machining, accounting, that sort of thing. When a project I was working on stalled because of a lack of skills and tools I looked around for a local space to work in. I didn’t find much — a couple of defunct efforts, some closed shops at Cornell, and so forth.

At the same time, I was a coworker of Mark Zifchock, who was also interested in the Maker/Hackerspace movement. I ended up going to some Thursday-night get-together at his house, where there were other local folks interested in a Maker/Hackerspace as well. The Thursday-night events got co-opted into meetings to plan what was to become IG, and things progressed from there. I remember us saying one week that if we were going to do this, we’d need 10 people committed to seeing it through, so we should start by finding those 10 people. The next time we met, we had our 10 people.

As part of our process of being founded, we needed to take care of official paperwork — get a bank account, write by-laws and an incorporation charter, etc. I was part of the team who worked on this aspect. I am listed by the State of New York as our “Incorporator”, and I was our first Treasurer, prior to incorporation and through our first two official years.

I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the project I was working on before helping found IG.

What’s something you’re working on right now that is supported by the resources or people at IG?

Unfortunately for my own projects, I find that I get too interested in other people’s projects when I staff. I’ve provided some input into making musical instruments, helped others with programming projects, shown people around the space and trained them in use of the laser cutter, etc. Working on my own stuff, not so much.

Some of the unfinished projects I have are:

  • An electronic MIDI-driving concertina. I have a Raspberry Pi-based 24-key organ which is a working prototype for this, which I originally built for the first IG open house 4 years ago. Building the case for the concertina is the project which I was unable to do without a Makerspace 5+ years ago.
  • A planetary-geared lasercut clock. One of the prototype stages for this clock was a showcase fixture at IG. Over time, the flaws in the prototype design have caused the piece to break, so I don’t know if it is around anymore. The nice thing about laser-cut designs is that even though I need to do more design work, I can pick it up anytime and just cut more.
  • The main unstarted project I have is a tall-case pendulum-timed digital clock. Most digital clocks have an electronic timing element in it, or run on a microcontroller which has a built-in oscillator. I want to build a digital clock which has a pendulum as the sole oscillator.

You host a few regularly scheduled events here – tell us a bit about them.

There are two main regular events I host (or co-host): the bi-weekly Board Game Night and the weekly “Computing for the People”. I also participate in the monthly Ithaca Sci-Fi Book Club.

The Board Game Night is exactly what it sounds like: a social event where folks who are interested in playing board games on alternate Friday Evenings can come down and play with us. I maintain a collection of board games in the back storage area, and people are encouraged to bring their own if they want. The goal is to provide a socialization and recruitment event for people to meet other makers with common interests (in board games), as well as to see the space. All are welcome, and it is family friendly.

Computing For The People is a weekly discussion group on topics of interest relating to computers, the tech industry, and social policy. While planned discussions do happen, for the most part the discussions are free-form and somewhat undirected. We have talked about — and will talk about again — issues of misogyny and bias in the tech industry, governmental hacking/spying and what can be done to protect yourself, the use of “big data” and “algorithmic decision making” to set or enforce public policy, what data are third-party services collecting and sharing about you, etc. All are welcome and it is family friendly.

What’s next for you to learn here?

Everything ;-).

I want to get more into OpenSCAD so I can make 3D printed stuff better. I want to learn more about parsing algorithms. I want to learn more about board game design. I want to play around with modern modelling/cad/cam tools (the stuff I know is 20+ years behind current tech). I want IG to get metalworking tools (lathe, shaper, mill, etc) and design and make metal parts.

There’s just so much to learn and do, and too little time to do it in.