Tinkers, mechanics, and builders who started young and still love it

A garage filled with a variety of tools and a greasy smell is quite common for the tinker or the mechanic and the tunnel vision they get focusing on one project for weeks can lead to a great feeling of achievement. Since I’ve always loved tinkering, building, and discovery, I decided to seek out other like-minded students and to learn about projects they’ve passionately undertaken.

Berton K’Chung, a senior at ARHS, is a tinkerer who pursues his own interests. “I’ve made skateboards when I was younger and worked on bikes and computers more recently,” he said.

Joshua Redenz, a senior at ARHS and a competent railroad equipment craftsperson builds railroad equipment, “full scale and fully functional.”

And senior Zachary Hatiras works on his car a lot, “sometimes mechanical, sometimes cosmetic.” Right now, he is painting a trunk lid. “I removed the spoiler and did some body work on it,” he said.  

All of these students had a passion for their hobbies, but for different reasons. “I always had an interest in building and taking things apart and not a big reason why,” said K’Chung.  

Redenz was a bit more career-focused. “I always loved to tinker and I am turning this into a career,” he said. “It’s fun to create working things.”

Hatiras said he engages more in tinkering as a hobby. “I do it because I’ve always enjoyed working on things. I like using tools, I like fixing things,” he said.

K’Chung said he planned to focus on a mechanical career like engineering or mechanics but was still unsure what he to do for the future. Redenz had more of a plan for his future, noting he was going to go to Germany to work on the Harz Narrow Gauge Railroad for an apprenticeship. Hatiras already has a job as a mechanic.

K’Chung said when he was young, his dad introduced him to skateboards and he began designing them. Later in high school, he moved to bicycles and computer hardware. Redenz began when he was three years old and did little projects with his mom or dad. When he was 5 or 6, he played with Tinker Toys until seventh grade. Then, he “began real stuff.”

Hatiras said, “I’ve been fixing things since I was 13.” He mentioned he learned most of this from his dad who was really handy. By seventh grade, he had started BMXing and working on his bike.

K’Chung was similar. “I have a good sense of building something and was really into Legos,” he said. “My dad showed me how to do some things like how to work with wrenches and screws.” When he has questions now, he mostly ends up Googling on the Internet.

“I’ve done quite a lot of work in the school shop and I’m mostly self taught, it’s trial and error. That’s the best way to learn, is to redo or fix something,” said Redenz.

Hatiras said his dad taught him a lot and what else he doesn’t know he reads on Internet forums. “I teach myself as I go through projects, and I learn from mistakes,” he said.

We all learned our crafts and skills in workshop, garages, and basements. K’Chung said he worked on the computers in his room and that he did the rest in a two-door garage.

Redenz told me he would work in his basement or he would go work in the school workshop and could use the tools in there.

Hatiras worked in his garage, basement, or outside. Another common feature noted among all interviewees was the desire to work alone, unobstructed.

All of us have our reasons for wanting to pursue our interests. K’Chung said, “I don’t know why but I enjoy weeks of working on a project and will sometimes tunnel vision on projects and forget to eat or do homework.”

Redenz said he felt fortunate to go into the trade he’d always wanted to go into. “I can’t believe I can get paid to do this stuff,” he said of his internship in Germany.

Hatiras said that everyone can learn from tinkering and taking on projects. “Everyone should know how to use basic tools; it can save you hundreds of dollars,” he said. “Also, learning to diagnose mechanical problems even if you can fix them can save you a lot of money.”