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Hi. I’m Elijah. I’m a Maker and I make fun, loud, obnoxious videos. Why am I in this show, with some of the most inspirational “kids” on the planet? I’m as baffled as you most of the time. Really.I’m not a “great grades” kid, my outreach has been limited mostly to corn in unusual places, and my inventions aren’t world changing. I’m better known for accidents than activism. So, why me, here? It’s not a long story, I’ll try to explain. A few years ago, when I was 9, I was much like most every kid in every public school in every neighborhood in New York, getting lost in a crowd of over a million kids. One year I came home from a summer program, and started to think of a big electronics & science project. It involved a high altitude balloon, some computers and a camera. I’d already built a couple of small computers and felt confident I could learn the skills. From soldering to programming, one skill at a time I tried my best to “blog” and share as much of the fun as I could with my friends. The original project was always there, I was always working towards it, but along the way I discovered the great world of the “maker.” LED cubes, lasers, hand-made video game consoles, friends visiting my maker space every week – it became a new way of life, something more than grammar and middle school could offer. Did it hurt my grades? Not exactly. I was never getting great grades to begin with, but now I was doing something worthwhile with my time and still getting middling grades This is where the STEAM Squad comes in. In 2016 I attended my first Maker Faire, the one in New York City in the fall. It was my first year in middle school, and I was part of the all-volunteer “Street Team” to raise awareness of the event I met makers from all over the world, and after talking with a few of them, decided to start talking to the “maker community” on Twitter to stay in touch.About the same time, my work as a “maker” got the attention of magazines, blogs, and other makers, partially for their merit and entertainment value, but also because of the pushback I got from an unusual place, and from the support that got me through. The more recognition my work and collaborations got, the harder my life got at school. NYC Schools don’t have time for kids who go “off the path.” I was often disqualified from or not allowed to compete in local “science fairs” by adults who thought “maker” work was in some way threatening, non-traditional and hard to understand and therefore hard to relate to. Despite overwhelming video, photos, recordings, personal appearances, friends, adult mentors, magazine articles & working machines, it was easier to decide that an adult did my work for me, than it was to see that I’d done something really simple and fun. The same blogs and magazines that would cover my work would often note the lack of support, and sometimes direct opposition from my school. How did I get through it all? I had other support. I had an unflinching, rock solid, ever reliable giant wall of support. Somewhere in 2017, Allie Weber started to comment on my posts here and there, and one day mentioned me after a road accident that led to the untimely death of some butterflies. Over time we started to comment on each other more, and I started to become aware of her many other friends. Jordan, Taylor, Allie and the others started to respond to my struggle for recognition at school. They offered validation and made me feel seen and heard. Suddenly I went from being alone in a crowd of a million kids, to knowing I was never really alone at all. So how did all that “inspiration” and “positivity” turn into me being in this club? One win at a time. With the incredible support that came from these other makers, companies and groups came the chance to compete in an arena my school had no influence over. Support from my friends empowered me to enter contests and challenges in person and over the internet. It was fun to run all over NYC and share my travels and experiences. Others noticed too. Some cheered me on, others joined along as we shared our “wind.” Soon I’d met Allie and Taylor in person, and was secretly working with Allie on a project that became known as “MythBusters Jr.” on Discovery and the Science Channel. By the time our project filmed, I’d met Gitanjali, Jordan and Julie and we had all become a part of each other’s lives. They had started the STEAM squad, but it wasn't yet my time to join. What was it I’d forgotten? How did I get here again? The balloon project. After all this time, it was still sitting there, a pile of parts, papers, ideas and research. It was late April, 2019 and I was still not listed here on this site, not a member of the STEAM Squad yet, and to be honest I hadn’t earned it yet.Three weeks. That’s all the newly formed “OK Do” company had before Maker Faire San-Francisco 2019, and that’s all the time I had to complete a big Faire-worthy project.That’s all the time I needed. It was enough time to build a “walk around” prototype and take basic pictures and atmospheric readings from my house to my favorite pizza place. It was enough time to make a quick design, seat the batteries, paint a cooler, order the parts and launch, twice. It was also all the time I needed to lose the balloon, gondola, payload, computers, trackers and all. Exhausted, discouraged and feeling like I’d failed, I got on the plane to face the music and tell my first ever sponsorship that I’d lost their gear. Before I’d left, I sent a tweet for help. I had the coordinates of the box, but no way to find those coordinates on the remote mountain in Pennsylvania where it had landed. Again, thanks to the loud social voice of my friends here in the STEAM Squad and others on Twitter, the story changed. As I was getting ready for a hard meeting, the video came in. A science class from Montrose High School in the Susquehanna Valley had gotten word and went out looking. They found my box. The story got bigger than I’d imagined it could have. By the time it was done, TV news coverage, more Maker Faire visits, and a buzz amongst the maker community made it about my project, but not just about me. That’s the start of how I wound up here. Not “Because MythBusters.” MythBusters was one part of the first “full story” of my life as a part of the Maker Faire community. Not because I did something really cool, or that it was on TV but because that was the day it all came full circle.That was the first day I knew that I’d inspired others. Not theoretical “others” but actual people with actual names who I actually got to meet, just like I’d met the Squad and just like they’d inspired me. Was that the day they elected me to the club? Nope, that was when they started to take my application seriously. It took another couple of years and a lot of work, outreach, and even a new focus on my academic life. Good grades? Still working on that. I’ll let you know.