The Washington Post

Meet the 16-year-old whiz kid who earned a place of honor at tonight’s State of the Union

President Barack Obama reacts after watching a marshmallow be launched in a gun designed by Joey Hudy, left, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, for the White House Science Fair. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Joey Hudy first shot to fame along with a marshmallow that President Obama fired from a custom cannon that the young inventor, then 14, presented at the 2012 White House Science Fair.

The Arizona teen will get another turn in the spotlight sitting beside Michelle Obama at the State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, though he won’t be bringing along his signature piece of confectionery artillery.

To the White House, Hudy, now 16, is more than just the marshmallow cannon kid. He is quite literally a self-made man — a champion of the do-it-yourself “maker movement,” which urges people to get their hands dirty with their own pet projects and creations. And so, the White House is recognizing him this time for his work encouraging everyone, particularly young people, to follow his personal motto: “Don’t be bored. Make something.”

“I’m nervous and excited at the same time,” Hudy said of his feelings about getting such a prime spot for the speech. “I’m nervous about how all of this is happening, but excited because it’s an awesome experience.”

Hudy first realized his interest in creating products while he was playing with Snap Circuits, a toy made by Elenco that helps kids make their own electronics projects. That drew him into the maker movement, where he started meeting like-minded folks of all ages. After his turn in the science fair spotlight in 2012, Hudy moved on to an internship at Microchip Technology. He met Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich at a Maker Faire gathering in Rome and then landed a position as the technology giant’s youngest intern.

Hudy started the Intel internship at this year’s International CES consumer electronics trade show, where he was particularly excited to see the attention paid to 3D printing. That, he said, is a trend that he hopes will expand.

“I see those going into more houses,” he said. “Everyone will have a 3D printer over the next couple of years.”

Hudy hopes that he’ll be able to turn his passion into a career as an electrical engineer down the road, a path that wants to pursue with Intel.

Until then, Hudy said, he hopes his story can provide a blueprint for other young people to show that they can turn their ideas into something more.

“They can do what I’m doing,” Hudy said. “They can make whatever they want.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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