Walking down so many aisles with robot arms inspecting motors and fully integrated lines, the Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show is a bit like a candy store for engineers. To make the experience even better, I also got a chance to see and hear former television “MythBuster” Jamie Hyneman talk about what he’s up to now.
Hyneman, this year’s keynote speaker, talked about his life before, during, and after his television success. Before the show, he had a scuba diving company, but was attracted to the special effects field—so much so that he found work at a special-effects company. There, he was willing to do just about every task required—sweeping up the shop, putting away tools, stocking materials—just to get his foot in the door. The only thing he asked was that he be allowed to tinker in his off time.
Hyneman then ended up on the show “Robot Wars,” where he introduced the blade-spinning combat robot Blendo (which had a habit of sending shrapnel flying when doing battle with opponents). “I’m the reason the ‘Robot Wars’ arena has a roof on it,” Hyneman admitted. It was too dangerous to let Blendo continue. Because no rules were broken, he won the competition, but was immediately kicked out.
Hyneman’s “Robot Wars” popularity caught the attention of a producer looking to start a new show, which would become “MythBusters.” And the rest is history.
Due to the show’s filming schedule, Hyneman explained that they had to design and build the projects depicted in just a few days. The rest of the time they were shooting and showing the cameras what they did. Hyneman said he would often get upset at some of the hoops they had to jump through for the show, because all he wanted to do was build more stuff.
And with “MythBusters” now having completed its 12-year run, Hyneman has the time to do just that. For one of his recent projects, he and his team built build 13 working robots that could play baseball. They couldn’t order enough motors in time for when they needed them, so instead they cleared out every Sears store they could find of every drill in stock. They then harvested the motors from the drills to complete the build in a matter of a few weeks. “And that was without any overtime,” Hyneman added.
Hyneman and his team continue to tinker and figure out how to make things work. While he talked about many things, I took away one quote in particular: “Science isn’t done by people in lab coats. It is done by people that want to do a good job at figuring something out.”