Goodbye Mason, My Beautiful Boy

Mason building one of his many robots

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

It is with immense, heart-wrenching sadness that we must say goodbye to Mason. On September 18, 2019, after 4-1/2 years of valiant battle, Mason passed away from complications due to Leukemia. He was 12 years old. From before he could even talk, Mason has been busy accompanying me and helping me with projects– along with his brother Maxwell as he got old enough to join us.

We’ve built lots of fun things together over the years including model railroads, robots, all sorts of electronic gizmos, fancy blinking Neopixel lights, programmed Arduinos, built CNC routers and 3D printers– pretty much anything you can think of, if it’s fun and technical, we probably did it!

Mason posing for the camera in his favorite MIT shirt

Headed to MIT

Mason’s dream was to attend MIT upon graduating high school and he had the grades for it, he was a straight-A student and always on the Honor Roll even in spite of all the doctors, hospitals, clinics and chemo– everything. Even through the very worst, he took it all in stride and kept right on going. He spent hours studying math and science with his tutors, and spent much of this past summer learning Calculus.

A fun story… One day he was sitting in the hospital and received a mysterious package out of the blue. He was thrilled when he opened it up and pulled out gobs of MIT loot! T-Shirts and Buttons and Hats and books– even a photo personalized and signed by a real MIT astronaut. He hardly went anywhere afterwards without wearing one of those MIT shirts.


His very last project was putting together his “dream gaming computer” which was spec’d out especially for Mason by none other than his favorite YouTuber Linus Sebastian himself (of ‘Linus Tech Tips‘), along with a special video that Linus made just for Mason. In the video Linus talked to Mason about upcoming episodes, some new stuff they were working on, and some information about how they produced their shows. He specifically requested for Mason to keep the actual video private so we’re continuing to honor that request.

A Screenshot from Linus’ Video to Mason

Mason had long wanted to build his own computer from scratch for the experience of doing it so the wonderful folks from the Make-A-Wish Foundation put it all together to make it happen for him. Originally the idea was for Mason to go to Canada to actually visit Linus in his studio but he was too sick to travel. So Linus made the video for him instead and Mason had a great time putting together the computer and watching the video.

Here’s a link to the Build Album for the Computer. (Viewer Discretion: Please be aware that these photos also show Mason in his last days at the hospital. He was very sick. But he very much enjoyed the experience. From a Father’s heart: Thank you to everybody who helped make his final wish come true!)

Multi-Media Tribute

Click here to view the album we put together to celebrate Mason’s life, spirit and creativity…

The M&M’s Working on Projects

Mason helping me cut the spoilboard for the CNC router
Mason & Maxwell working on the “Elevator Challenge”

Some Fun Videos

Mason & Maxwell working on the “Elevator Challenge”
Mason Attempting to Shoot a Home-made Arduino-based Nerf Target

We’re Going to Miss You, Mason

Maxwell and I will continue to tinker, build, poke-around and experiment with fun stuff and in this way we’ll do our best to keep Mason’s memory alive and in our hearts. But it goes without saying that we’re going to miss our little guy every single day– his warmth, his humor, his youthful glee and spirit, and most of all the peals of laughter and giggles coming from behind his computer screen as he sat up gaming with his friends into the wee hours of the night!

Mason, my beautiful boy, you are already greatly missed.

The Greatest Kid Ever!

In summary, Mason was many things, a great student, a great experimenter, a great spirit and a great son! He had many aspects and tons of great potential to go very far in life. He was loved by all who knew him and he touched hearts and made friends everywhere he went. He often endured great pain and personal suffering and came out cheerful and smiling.


UPDATE: I’ve been pulling together a lot of the material that I have related to the various projects that Mason worked on and have been getting it all sorted into albums and edited into videos, as appropriate. And then I’ll start posting it here for people to see.

Bite Me Leukemia, I’m Going to MIT

I would like to end this tribute with Mason’s own words:

Cancer is not fun and unfortunately it can happen to anybody. But it is important to remember that we choose our destinies. Cancer can break our bodies but it cannot break our spirits. Nobody knows how much time they’ve got so you’ve got to make every moment count. Tell the people you love that you love them and go forth and live life with all of your might.

(Here’s the link to the whole video from the start)

Join Our “Mason’s Army” Page on Facebook

Doing more: If you would like to join us in celebrating Mason’s life, please join our “Mason’s Army” Facebook group, or view his photo album. And we would like to take a moment to urge you to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Here is the link to their donation page.

One Last Video, Just For Fun…

The M&M’s in Concert… 🙂

Making the Maker Cart

For a while now I’ve been wishing I had some sort of a portable cart / box / cabinet / work-surface “thing” that I could move around the house from location-to-location as we tend to do projects “in-place” whenever and wherever the mood strikes. And as our projects have grown in sophistication, it gets to be a pain to be constantly lugging and dragging parts and stuff around from one place to the next. So, over time, the idea for the “Maker Cart” began to materialize in my mind– but you know, as a “round tuit” project for ‘someday’…

TL;DR Here is a link to the build log with photos


Continue reading “Making the Maker Cart”

Pontiac Chief


My Dad is a Pontiac nut. He lives and breathes Pontiac stuff. So for his birthday I wanted to see if I could make some sort of “Pontiac Chief” thing out of wood. I searched online until I found a good version of the logo to use and then I hand-drew it into the CAD program. I added the circle behind it and the lettering below it using regular CAD tools. I tweaked it just a little in the CAM program just before I cut it, so you can perhaps see a little bit of revision between the original CAD and the final result that was cut.

My Dad liked it.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.

Rebuilding the Z-Axis on the Old CNC Router


I built the old CNC router using parts and designs patterned after the OpenBuilds “OX” machine. In general it was a pretty good machine for cutting wood but turned out to be not so good for cutting metal, particularly aluminum which is the type of metal that I generally want to cut. So I gave it a shot at rebuilding the Z-axis using a C-shaped OpenBuilds extrusion and that helped quite a bit, but ultimately it just wasn’t as solid as I wanted. Even with the wrap-around aspect of the C-beam there was still too much play to do a good job at cutting aluminum. Then my wife gave me a nice spiffy new ready-built Z-axis for Christmas and that was the genesis for the whole new “Bigger & Stronger” CNC router. But still, someone might find what I did to rebuild this one interested.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.

Adding Limit Switches to the Old CNC Router


I ran the old CNC router for well over a year before getting around to putting limit switches on it. Since I rarely cut anything which approached the sides of the envelope it really wasn’t a big problem. But I really wanted to get it set up so that I could have Mach3 home it to a known location and have a little more consistency. So I bought a handful of inductive proximity switches and started bolting them on. You can click on the build log link below to see how it went.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.

3D-Printed Motor Mount for Wild Thumper


My wife gave me a six-wheel Wild Thumper Robot / RC chassis a couple of years ago for my birthday. I wanted  it to use as a platform for a robot project. Sharp-eyed readers may recognize it as the underlying platform for my “ARDI” robot. After I got the batteries and cpu board and whatnot figured out, I decided that I wanted to add shaft encoders to the two center wheel motors and that’s where my troubles began…

Continue reading “3D-Printed Motor Mount for Wild Thumper”

The New CNC Router – Bigger & Stronger

20171228_174223.jpgThe time has come to build a new CNC router. The old one is okay and works well enough for wood, but my attempts to use it to cut metal (aluminum, light-gauge steel) have been a bit disappointing. The other issue it has is that seems perpetually either “too big” or else “not big enough” for whatever project I’m doing. It’s cutting envelope just doesn’t lend itself well for the range of projects that I want to work on.

So I spent some time back in January working on the old router, including rebuilding the Z-axis, and while it’s now better than it was, it still doesn’t really solve the whole problem to my satisfaction. So after some deliberation, I’ve decided to build a new one to tackle these issues. Plus, let’s just be honest, I was kind of looking for an excuse to have a new machine project to work on anyway… 😉

Here’s a link to the Build Log with lots more photos and a descriptive write-up.

The Old CNC Router – First Foray into CNC Machining


This was the first foray for my kids and I into the world of CNC routers. I based this largely on the ‘OX’ design put out by Mark Carew of the OpenBuilds community. As you can see it uses the typical V-Slot ‘roller bearing’ arrangement which is promoted through OpenBuilds. So, while I did not buy all the components together specifically as a “kit”, I did go through the BOM (Bill of Materials) of the Ox and several other projects to accumulate a list of necessary components.

Here is a link to the Build Log with lots more photos and description.