Harnessing Your Creativity Hack Chat

Don't forget to add "creativity" to your BOM

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
Similar projects worth following

Leo Fernekes will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at noon Pacific Time. (Note that this is rescheduled from the original 10/14 date -- we had a little time zone snafu. -- ed)

Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter!

Join Hack ChatYou're sitting at your bench, surrounded by the tools of the trade -- meters and scopes, power supplies and hand tools, and a well-stocked parts bin. Your breadboard is ready, your fingers are itching to build, and you've got everything you need to get started, but -- nothing happens. Something is missing, and if you're like many of us, it's the one thing you can't get from eBay or Amazon: the creative spark that makes innovation happen.

Creativity is one of those things that's difficult to describe, and is often noticed most when it's absent. Hardware hacking requires great buckets of creativity, and it's not always possible to count on it being there exactly when it's called for. It would be great if you could somehow reduce creativity to practice and making it something as easy to source for every project as any other commodity.

While Leo Fernekes hasn't exactly commoditized creativity, judging from the breadth of projects on his YouTube channel, he's got a pretty good system for turning ideas into creations. We've featured a few of his builds on our pages, like a discrete transistor digital clock, the last continuity tester you'll ever need, and his somewhat unconventional breadboarding techniques. Leo's not afraid to fail and share the lessons learned, either.

His projects, though, aren't the whole story here: it's his process that we're going to discuss. Leo joins us for this Hack Chat to poke at the creative process and see what can be done to remain rigorous and systematic in your approach but still make the process creative and flexible. Join us with your questions about finding the inspiration you need to turn parts and skills into finished projects that really innovate.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney11/18/2020 at 21:12 0 comments

    Hi all, welcome to Hack Chat. I'm Dan, I'll be moderating today for Leo Fernekes as we talk about "Harnessing Your Creativity."

    I know it's late -- or early -- where you are Leo. Are you online yet?

    Leo Fernekes12:00 PM
    Yes - here and live

    Good morning! Thanks for braving the timezone shift to be with us today. Can you perhaps start us off with a little about your background?

    Leo Fernekes12:01 PM

    Leo Fernekes12:01 PM
    I grew up in California

    Leo Fernekes12:01 PM
    kind of a hippy family

    Jon joined the room.12:02 PM

    Leo Fernekes12:02 PM
    My father would buy me "toys" from the university of cali lab surplus

    Leo Fernekes12:02 PM
    i fell in love with the mystery of technology

    Leo Fernekes12:03 PM
    I was a horrible student

    Leo Fernekes12:03 PM
    kicked out of many schools

    Leo Fernekes12:03 PM
    but i was always surrounded with mentors- or maybe I gravitated to them?

    Leo Fernekes12:04 PM
    never finished HS

    Leo Fernekes12:04 PM
    never bothered to get a GED

    Andrew Klein joined the room.12:05 PM

    Leo Fernekes12:05 PM
    started soldering boards for a friend of my father's - he produced bio tech in his Berkeley garage

    Leo Fernekes12:06 PM
    then I got a job through my commune-mate, he was designing a computer controlled animation stand for a company in mill valley (Korty Films)

    Leo Fernekes12:07 PM
    he took me on and let me design stuff- I was just a kid,

    In one of your videos you mentioned having students -- is that sort of a mentorship arrangement that continues your early experiences?

    Leo Fernekes12:07 PM
    I made some big messes, but also some great stuff

    Leo Fernekes12:08 PM
    Yes- teaching others in the same way that I leaned feels right

    Leo Fernekes12:08 PM

    Leo Fernekes12:08 PM
    I only take on bright, passionate sparks

    Leo Fernekes12:09 PM
    that way it's really rewarding

    Leo Fernekes12:09 PM
    some people just drink in the knowledge

    Leo Fernekes12:09 PM
    others- you have to bang them over the head

    I think this was the build video I was thinking of:

    YouTube Leo's Bag of Tricks

    Leo Fernekes12:10 PM
    Yes- this was a year-long deep dive into analog design

    Leo Fernekes12:10 PM
    2 students built the whole thing

    Leo Fernekes12:11 PM
    I designed the circuits and explained what and how along the way

    Leo Fernekes12:11 PM
    a ton of hand work is involved, which is really important

    Leo Fernekes12:12 PM
    too many people just plug modules together and never learn good build techniques

    Nicolas Tremblay12:12 PM
    Apprenticeship is something that is getting lost nowadays.

    Leo Fernekes12:12 PM
    yes- and that's a terrible loss

    Leo Fernekes12:13 PM
    I had a junior high chum that was totally obsessed with telephones

    Leo Fernekes12:14 PM
    we would goto flea markets and buy old office phone hardware

    Leo Fernekes12:14 PM
    he had a PABX in his house at about 13 years old

    Leo Fernekes12:14 PM
    amazing guy

    Jon12:15 PM
    What kinds of hand work do you find is the most helpful? I sometimes get lost in the tedium of a project without recognizing how it help learn design. Are you talking lots of through hole and SMD soldering?

    Leo Fernekes12:15 PM
    My biggest skill is finding others to learn from

    data12:15 PM
    So what is your daytime job?

    Funny how the "gateway drug" for hardware hacking has always been a moving target. For my vintage, it was the phone system, for an earlier generation it was radio repairs, and now it's Arduinos and such.

    Leo Fernekes12:16 PM
    leaning how to approach a build, strategically, like how to mount and connect a wide range of parts

    Leo Fernekes12:17 PM
    I am a consultant, but I only do tech art

    Leo Fernekes12:18 PM
    I don't think I could even stomach the commercial product design scene these days

    Leo Fernekes12:19 PM
    My main client these days is the LED artist Erwin Redl

    Leo Fernekes12:19 PM
    Erwin does mostly lighting installation art

    Leo Fernekes12:19 PM
    but he's blown up the last few year

    data12:19 PM
    So you are the brain behind his installations?!...

    Read more »

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