What’s this all about?

What’s this all about?

Welcome to the Aerospace Maker website.  I‘m Aaron Harper.  This website and our Youtube channel are all about the nuts and bolts of aerospace.  The plan is to cover a variety of aerospace topics which range in skill and knowledge level from middle and high school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through undergraduate level work.  Some topics might go beyond that, but we will work up to those.  Where a math or science concept goes beyond what I would expect the average person to remember after years being out of school, there will be a refresher video to bring everybody up to speed.  

We may do a lot of talking and documentation, but things will be built, tested, destroyed, and in some cases, blown up.  Projects will be presented on this blog and via videos. The bigger the challenge, the more time and videos will be devoted to it.  I expect a person to have basic hand tools and skills. If the task requires tools or skills beyond that, I will explain in detail and demonstrate.  If something requires a specialized tool, I will explain how to get it and use it.

This website will have a ton of information on it that won’t be covered in the videos.  There will be plans, Bill of Materials (BoM), templates, checklists, reference sources, etc.  Everything posted there is free for your use as creative commons (CC-BY).  Just remember to cite your sources.

All of these projects are open hardware and will feature open source software.  I am a founding member of the Open Source HardWare Association (OSHWA, oshwa.org), so needless to say, I take this seriously.  You may (and should) replicate my work, in fact, please replicate, improve, and fork my work.  You may even use it in a commercial venture, but just remember where you got it, and share with others.

Another website that will be used for the projects during development is Open Design Engine at opendesignengine.net.  I use it to develop projects and keep the documentation in one place.  Keep your eyes on this site if you want to see what I am up to before I post the videos.  Sometimes there’s even fire!  Finally, we need to thank Mach30 at mach30.org for their part in making this channel happen.  This group is serious about ‘hastening the advancement of humanity into a spacefaring civilization through sustainable leadership, open design practices, and a bias toward mature technology’. Check them out when you have a chance.  With their help I was able to figure out where the maker community’s gaps were in terms of aerospace knowledge.

Some of the folks whom I asked about the idea of the channel and website had a few questions, so here is the first Aerospace Maker Q&A session:

Why am I doing this?  

As I got involved with open source hardware projects and the maker communities, I realized that everyone, makers, educators, students, and professionals, were missing critical parts of the aerospace knowledge base.  Specialization works for people in a large company, but makers, and the new crop of amateur rocket scientists out there need to understand things from start to finish.  We must close the gaps, or at very least direct folks to where the answers are if we are to expect progress and safety.

Who am I?  

I am one of those guys who has been around aerospace forever.  My interest started when my dad took me to see the last Apollo launch.  It was one of those experiences you never forget. This piqued my interest, and as I began to study aerospace, rather than becoming mundane once the veil was lifted, it became more and more impressive and compelling.  I learned all I could, and am still learning.

What’s my background?  

Once I received my degree in electronic and electrical engineering, I worked in commercial radio as an engineer.  I joined the Air Force and one of my jobs was F-15 flight controls and instruments (avionics).  After I left the Air Force, I moved into process control, robotics, and expert systems.  I worked in IT and communications at a Fortune 500, running everything from mainframes and modem banks to satellite communications on PCs.  After Y2K, I have worked for myself as an IT contractor, even producing a secure firewall / VPN appliance.  While all this was going on, I kept my hand in aerospace in many ways, running a company called Ahead Research for decades until open hardware became a thing.

What is your aerospace education and area of expertise?  

In addition to my EE degree, I am an undergraduate space studies student at the American Public University System, currently on hiatus due to business and family commitments.  I will resume my education shortly and plan to pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.  If I have an aerospace speciality, it is in electronics and communications since I have been doing radio in one way or another since 1989.  I try to be well rounded though, exploring all the fields, particularly the neglected areas between the disciplines.

Why do your videos look grainy or amateurish?  

I didn’t start out wanting to make videos.  I have a fairly well equipped shop and lab, but my video equipment was just good enough to document projects.  Since the priorities have changed a bit, so will the equipment.  I expect the video quality to improve by fall, though a donation in either equipment or funds would certainly speed that up.

How are you funded? What are the plans for the future?  

Right now, I am not funded.  I am simply filling the need out of my own pocket.  Donations are accepted through Patreon; the link is in the sidebar on the right.  If corporate sponsors wish to chip in, this would be appreciated, but I will not directly endorse a product unless it will help the maker community.  I would recommend contacting us to arrange supporting specific projects which will help you with a thank you in the video and a product placement in the videos, if a product is provided.  

How do I contact you?  I have an idea for the channel or a project.

If you have an idea, a suggestion to improve a video, a post, or think something needs a better explanation than I gave, drop me a line at aaron@aerospacemaker.org and we’ll work through it.  If your suggestions substantially improve the videos with your suggestions, I will send you something as a thank you!


That’s all the questions I have, so that’s a wrap.  Most people who do these sort of things have a clever phrase to end a chat.  I am going to use a very simple phrase spoken to me by Homer Hickam, NASA engineer and of Rocketboys fame.  We discussed a project in the late 90’s and after listening to my concerns (which were more societal and ethical than based in engineering), he said simply “Let’s go”.  He later autographed a book of his with these same words.

Let’s go!