Baltimore makers helped Mythbusters' Adam Savage build the 'SXSL' sign for the White House - Baltimore


Oct. 3, 2016 2:33 pm

Baltimore makers helped Mythbusters’ Adam Savage build the ‘SXSL’ sign for the White House

Check out the fine handiwork of Open Works and the Digital Harbor Foundation.

Getting an "S" prepared. There were two.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The letters that form the centerpiece at the White House’s SXSW-inspired South by South Lawn on Monday came directly from Baltimore.

On Sunday, Mythbusters’ Adam Savage joined a crew of local makers to get them ready for the “South Lawn” edition of Austin’s idea fest.

Standing about seven feet tall, the letters were cut using the new CNC equipment at Open Works in Station North. Then, they were taken to the Digital Harbor Foundation in Federal Hill for assembly and illumination.

On Sunday afternoon, Savage was joined by Jen Schachter, who is a familiar face around the Digital Harbor Foundation and is now a Robert W. Deutsch fellow at Open Works, as well as a crew of about 50 youth and community members at the Tech Center on Light Street.

Savage and Schachter traded places giving directions and standing on top of tables as they painted, cut and placed supports for the letters. The letters also contain an LED strip and Arduino device. An especially tricky moment came in placing the acrylic front on an “S.”

“This is the toughest letter, and we only have two of them,” Savage quipped.


The “L.” (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The project was built on inspiration from the Digital Harbor Foundation’s “DHF” letters created by Biren Rai in 2014, the letters will change colors via Twitter, said Digital Harbor Foundation Executive Director Shawn Grimes. With help from a Raspberry Pi, the sign will change after any tweet with the hashtag #SXSL and a color. It’ll also change color when “first lady” appears in the Tweet.


Mayen Nelson gets a close-up view of Adam Savage and Jen Schachter's work. (photo by Stephen Babcock)

Mayen Nelson, a Federal Hill prep student, gets a close-up view of Adam Savage and Jen Schachter’s work. (photo by Stephen Babcock)

It’s just the latest interaction between DHF and the White House, where former executive director Andrew Coy now works in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. When the tech center’s Sierra Seabrease and Darius McCoy accompanied Savage and the letters to D.C. on Monday morning, they were making a return trip.

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