Inventor Shane Light shares a passion for science and its universal appeal at this year’s Tinkerfest – an experience not to be missed.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Shot on location at Mid-America Science Museum
Creative ingenuity from tinkering minds like Shane Light’s makes Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs a nationally-acclaimed venue for learning and enlightenment. Shane was introduced to the museum last year at a Henderson State University Career Fair, when he was recruited to participate in the museum’s 3rd Annual Tinkerfest. “His interest in computer programming, combined with his innovation and creativity with robotics, are the exact traits that help spark young minds interested in science,” says Jim Miller, the museum’s director of marketing.
“Aside from the vast resources that we already have at the museum, it’s just as crucial that we have individuals like Shane, who express and showcase a genuine interest and passion for science in our community,” Jim notes. “It’s one thing to view and interact with an exhibit on display, but to actually meet and have a conversation with someone who has used science to create something unique helps us catapult our mission and spread enthusiasm for science throughout the state.”
Mid-America Science Museum introduces children to the accessibility of science and math in the practical world. It’s one of the few places in Arkansas, Shane says, where people of all ages can interact with exhibits and encounter truly authentic experiences. Shane’s interest in science and crafting unique creations of seemingly ordinary objects began in second grade with cardboard cutouts. He honed his craft in college and continues his ever-evolving journey of making things that amaze.
Currently on display at the museum is Shane’s “Piano Man.” The robotic man is seated at an old piano and plays melodies from an automated computer program. His face turns to speak and thank attentive guests for stopping to listen to his music. Children and adults are awestruck as they encounter the robot – its head illuminates and its man-made hands play the keys. “I know the music sounds horrible, but it’s amazing to see the Piano Man recreate melodies to the best of his artificial intelligence,” says Shane, an engineering and physics graduate from Henderson State University.
A former software engineer, Shane recently opened A Narrow Escape – a new business offering customized escape room experiences. “With the escape room, I could make a living out of what I tinker with,” he says, noting many of his inventions comprise the puzzles people solve to escape. Visit www.narrowescapear.com to find out more interesting facts.
Shane says Tinkerfest showcases the universal appeal of science, and he looks forward to participating in the 4th annual event. “Kids don’t realize their potential, and Tinkerfest shows them that everybody can do absolutely anything. I teach them that the one thing you need to hone is your mind. It lasts throughout your life. Every building was first formed in someone’s mind. Kids will say they don’t want to go into science because they don’t like math, for example, but when they realize they do math every day without even recognizing it – such as negotiating the street distance for a turn on their bike – they are eager to learn more.”
“I always strive to provide an experience,” Shane says. He notes that thoughtfulness is an important component of learning. “People don’t take time to stop and reflect – for example, most people don’t pick up a smartphone and think about what’s inside that makes it work.” He also admits that being able to laugh at yourself is important, especially for inventors. “So many of my inventions flop and go nowhere, and I just start over. That’s something I like to share with the kids at Tinkerfest, too. Even if something fails, that just challenges me even more; there’s no excuse to not do anything I can imagine.”
Scientific Influence: Nikola Tesla
Greatest Invention: “Prisoner of Utility” featuring a floating light bulb – inspired by Tesla
Tinkerfest Favorite: kids acknowledging that they can do anything