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Credit: Erik Beck

How one fan builds the robots and geeky DIY inventions of your dreams

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Jul 22, 2018, 2:46 PM EDT (Updated)

Erik Beck has been building things for as long as he can remember. He refers to his need to do so as a "compulsion." Beck’s been building ever since, combining his passion for piecing together the perfect creation with his love for pop culture to make the kinds of gadgets and geeky machines most fans can only dream of.

Growing up, Beck would watch movies like Star Wars and Ghostbusters repeatedly on a beta machine as a geeky kid in the ‘80s. His first geeky build was created using just a shoebox, a soda cup, and some masking tape.

“I made a really crude walker from Star Wars and I cut a little slot in the bottom of the shoebox so that it could be a flap and then I made little legs,” Beck told SYFY WIRE. “Cardboard and masking tape were my early mediums. I would always build vehicles and robots and things.”

Beck has continued to build robots and props over the years but says his building was really supercharged by an opportunity in 2007. He pitched a web series aimed at kids and filmmakers to Indy Mogul that would show people how to make low budget special effects for $50 or less. That series became Backyard FX.

“Up to that point, I was building for fun or when I had time, but then it became my full-time job," he says. "My curiosity and what I realized was possible kind of exploded."

Among the many things Beck built as part of Backyard FX were a lightsaber prop and a jetpack prop. After making an episode every week for almost three years, he moved to Los Angeles for more commercial work to pay the bills and returned to building just for fun.

Within the last year, he’s come back to the web series space with a new show, Dangerbot. According to Beck, Dangerbot is just for fun for now. It’s just him and his fiancé in their garage squeezing an episode or two in when they have time between their jobs.

Seeing as Beck wanted to do more work with robots, that's what Dangerbot focuses on — they build and test dangerous robots. So far, they’ve been experimenting with the RoboPunch machine.

Beck calls the experience of creating things and sharing them with the online community of fans and builders "amazing." He describes it as a great platform for a creator that allows you to connect with other creators, validates you, and offers almost no barriers to sharing your work.

RoboPunch Erik Beck

Credit: Erik Beck

“I was always just this weird kid making stuff pretty much by myself. I had friends, but not really a lot of friends who were building things and so as a tool it’s amazing and I think that was a turning point as far as just building confidence,” Beck says. “I would build things and show a couple friends, but when you have a bigger audience and they’re like ‘wow you’re good at building things’ or ‘you’re funny,’ you think ‘maybe I am.’ I don’t think I would be where I am today without the Internet.”

He also sees the Internet as a great resource where you can find other people interested in the same things you are and can teach yourself almost anything.

Beck creates such extraordinary work it might be surprising to hear his process starts by building everything in his head. He said as a visual person, he’s always building in his mind as he’s doing other things, whether at the gym or in the shower and then he’ll research on his phone what kind of parts an idea might need. His workshop is covered in whiteboards, which he’ll stand in front of with colored dry erase markers and sketch things out. Each item takes a lot of planning before he starts digging in. From there, Beck says everything changes once you start building.

While focusing on building a proton pack from Ghostbusters might sound like just a dream come true, Beck’s projects also come with their challenges. Staying focused can be an issue.

“My passion, my hobbies, and fortunately my work totally overlap so it’s tough sometimes to be like ‘oh, I should be doing this creative project but I’m really excited about this creative project’ so staying on track is a challenge and time management,” he says. “Often I’ll be so excited I‘ll make an idea more complicated than it needs to be. Someone will be like ‘hey let’s build this robot that just rolls around’ and I’m like ok cool and then it has an arm that pops out and lights that blinks and it talks and it’s like whoa this is beyond what I asked, but I get excited and go crazy.”

Beck’s work has resulted in some stunning DIY projects and we can only imagine what the future will hold for the next inventions he must already be planning in his head now!

You can find Beck’s current work at Dangerbot on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Get to know Erik a bit better below: