My Story: Cannon Launches Boy into His Own Skin

By Frances Reed

Jameco Product Manager, Paul Krcik was standing in line for the pre-Maker Faire paella dinner when Joey and his mother, Julie, came up behind him. It was immediately clear that this was no ordinary teen. Alight with excitement and a passion for electronics, Joey clung to a laminated printout of his entry, the marshmallow cannon. Insistent on spreading the word to all who will listen, Joey spilled the minute details of his cannon, "If you pump it up to 30 psi, it goes up to 176 feet," Joey said. He knows the wind speed, the average flight distance; this kid is a fountain of facts. That's when it hits you, this kid's smart... really smart.

"People have always said Joey was smart, but it wasn't until Maker Faire that we started to see how smart," Joey's mother, Julie, confessed.

The Cannon

Joey Hudy Joey had the opportunity to talk with many people at the faire about what he was interested in. It has completely changed his confidence according to Julie as she describes a shy, small teen, not comfortable in his own skin.

Joey was born with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. He admits he is not a crowd person and is not very social. However, what's obvious is his passion for projects. It was through his projects that Joey met Jerry Becker, a Home Depot employee. Julie Hudy was so overwhelmed by Jerry's support, she asked the Phoenix TV news to do a Pay It Forward segment in honor of Jerry.

A lot has changed recently for the Hudys of New River, AZ. The family table is now Joey's office, covered with LEDs, microcontrollers and boards, and he's in constant communication with many "Makers" and product managers like Krcik; "His questions have definitely pushed the limits of my knowledge, " laughs Krcik. "I've had to check with my engineers on a few occasions to figure out the answers." Joey always found himself working on projects. However, one day in class, he was playing with an empty water bottle and pencil. "I squeezed the bottle and my pencil shot out. Then I thought, what would happen if I pressurized it?" smile Joey. "When I got home, I looked up air cannons and saw many other people were into it too!" It was just the beginning of what would eventually evolve into the Extreme Marshmallow Launcher.

Joey garnered some support and assistance from Jerry Becker at the local Home Depot, constructed the cannon and got his mind set on attending the Bay Area Maker Faire. The trip was a birthday present and a dream come true for the Arizona whiz kid. "The best part was meeting Adam Savage," Joey says of the Faire, "and talking to everyone."

Joey and Adam Savage Adam Savage and Joey Hudy

Joey's latest projects include learning how to program, and has his future sights set on making an electric bike and becoming an engineer. But until then, his next stop is Maker Faire Detroit. A fortunate airline bump got Julie and Joey tickets to Detroit for the end of July festivities.

"When I saw the new-found confidence in Joey," Julie recalled, "I called my husband and said I don't know how, but we're going to every (Maker Faire) we can."

The family is currently working on getting the funds for the New York Maker Faire in September. "It would mean so much to him and be a huge opportunity to learn more. If he had to miss a couple of days of school, it's still worth it," Julie said.

So Joey's launcher has already made it to the Bay Area, next to Detroit. All of us at Jameco are keeping our fingers crossed that he makes it to New York. Knowing Joey, we know he won't stop there.

Click here to build your own Marshmallow Launcher

Jameco welcomes the contributions of its customers. Frankly, we think what you write is more interesting than anything we could write. Share your electronic component story, project, or challenge, and we'll share it with the world. Send your story to [email protected]