A self-described chronic dabbler, Tommy Waters does it all. Tommy is Generator’s Electronics Lab Lead, a software and electronic engineer, avid woodworker and creative learner.

Inspired by his brother’s mechanical engineering pursuits and an enthusiastic digital electronics professor, Tommy found electrical engineering. Throughout his high school days in Saratoga Springs and college years at Clarkson University, Tommy honed his craft, and joined GlobalFoundries upon graduation in 2017. As a test engineer, Tommy tested wafers and modules in semiconductors (the circuitry developed on the silicon of semiconductors). Although his work was fulfilling, the monotony of his job and the lack of access to a creative community led Tommy to explore Burlington’s creative landscape. “I was really looking at ways of pushing my personal projects to another level.” After taking some time off from GlobalFoundries, and with life on hold during the pandemic, Tommy joined Generator. His technical skills and creative itch found their home, and his journey towards expert dabbler had begun. 

Tommy’s introduction to Generator was in large part due to Ezra Ranz-Schleifer, an artist and creator whose mechanical engineering background complemented Tommy’s software and electrical engineering expertise. Their collaboration has led to the creation of “BLOOM” kinesthetic flower sculptures that were designed by Ezra and brought to life by Tommy. Currently, Tommy is designing the circuits and programming the stepper motors which move the flowers’ petals. As Tommy describes it, this project is: “focused on the interaction of people and flowers coming together… The stepper motors are controlling the actuation of flowers to show life and dynamic movement that one can see with blooming, ebbing and flowing of flowers across seasons.” The pair hope to complete the project by February of 2023 in advance of displaying at Burlington City Arts.

Tommy’s curiosity and desire to grow his skill sets have propelled him to pursue projects across Generator’s shops. He enjoys hopping between hobbies, recently picking up the fiber arts (sewing, crocheting and macrame) to complement his woodworking passion. His studio space is proof of this exploration. “I wanted to bring that to my space here in Generator and create a place where I enjoy working in.” Macrame plant hangers, a floating wooden shelf and a carved monitor stand de-clutter his space and curate a creative yet clean studio. His personal projects are a meditative way to ease his mind while constantly learning: “I’ve been trying to push myself to try to find new ways to learn and make mistakes and bring new perspective to new projects.”

Beyond just dabbling, Tommy’s time at Generator has been all about curating spaces that enable safe, fun and productive creation for himself and for other members. As the Electronics Shop Lead, Tommy is responsible for the maintenance of the space and the collection and distribution of materials. With donated electronic hardware of all qualities and ages, this is no small task. Tommy’s principle objective is creating an intuitive space where safe, dedicated stations allow for ergonomic and creative workflows to flourish. As Tommy sees it, simple organization will help “spread the creativity.”

As for what lies ahead, Generator’s upcoming renovations open up the possibility to design a more advanced electronics curriculum. “At the moment we have a base level curriculum intended to get people into the space to use it safely and correctly.” Looking forward, Tommy has plans to design a more project-focused curriculum, where members can be invested in the breadth of learning with real application opportunities