Meet Christopher McMahan, Winner of the 2017 Off the Clock Design Challenge!

Many of you may remember the name Christopher McMahan.

If you don’t, this article may refresh your memory.

Yes, Christopher McMahan was the lucky winner of our inaugural Off the Clock Design Challenge last year. Along with winning the contest, he also won a 3D printer!

In preparation of this year’s challenge, we thought we’d catch up with Christopher to get his thoughts on the Wurth Electronics design contest and to see what he’s up to now.

Read our interview with Chris to learn more about the Off the Clock Design Challenge — and learn about our new contenders for 2018 here!

How did you hear about the Off the Clock Design Challenge?

I first heard about Off the Clock while looking online at a magazine I’m subscribed to called Make: Magazine, which features a bunch of do-it-yourself technology projects. I like that kind of stuff.

What gave you the idea to apply and compete?

Actually, when I read about the challenge, an idea popped into my head that I thought would be cool, using the prototyping wireless charger kit provided by Wurth Electronics.

So I just wrote the idea up and sent it in, not even expecting to get a response, let alone get accepted at all — but I figured I’d give it a try anyway. And I’m glad I did!

Did you have an engineering background when you started the contest?

Not a professional background at all — I was an automotive mechanic at the time — I just like playing around with electronics as a hobby.

My mom always used to say I was taking my toys apart at two and putting them back together at three.

How did you document your design process?

Video blogging is all I did; in fact, I was the only contestant to make videos and post them on YouTube. I figured it was one of the best ways to reach more people.

I know blogs are still around and popular, but I didn’t think this type of design process would translate well for a blog, so I decided to do videos instead.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process?

I actually ran into quite a few!

At the time the application was due, I had just changed jobs (from auto mechanic to data quality). That had me driving back and forth constantly — and I actually moved twice during the contest. So I usually had my videos uploaded right on the last day of each deadline.

I also had to change the final product slightly; it turned out not to be waterproof because I didn’t have time to seal it in. Plus, I had a few issues with the lights I wanted to use . . . and the first circuits I ordered didn’t work, so I had to reorder them.

Off the Clock was a challenge — but it was also a lot of fun. I had a great time doing it. And Wurth Electronics stood behind me the whole way. If I had any issues, all I had to do was contact them.

Was there any time during the challenge when you wanted to give up?

I always thought that giving up was a non-option.

I did have to change the design and not do it as well as I wanted to, based on the time restraints. At the very least, I wanted to get all the videos done to make sure I just completed the contest — which I did!

What was your favorite part of being a contender?

Knowing I was one of only five contestants, ha! And simply knowing I was picked to compete at all. I was just happy to be part of the team.

Have you made any changes to your design since the contest ended?

I’ve actually taken a breather from it. Even though it didn’t come out as I designed it, I really liked how it ended up and didn’t want to change it.

I was going to take apart the ball and use the wireless charging for a different project, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it — I’d put so much work into it.

The design is just a mantle piece now. I haven’t used or changed it — it’s just my little trophy for winning the contest.

What have you created with the 3D printer you won?

Not as much as you’d think. It’s awesome, but it took me a few months to get to the point where I was thinking of using it for different things. I would wonder how to make something . . . and then remember I had a 3D printer, so I could use that.

The first thing I made with the printer was a battery holder for a remote control drone. The drone didn’t work, but the battery holder was great!

What other projects are you working on now?

I’m continuing to do my Make: Magazine stuff on the side; I’m doing a board right now.

As far as ideas for the future . . . I’m not sure, but I know I’ll think of something. Tinkering is my hobby!

Any words of advice for our new Off the Clock contestants?

Don’t give up. Just stick to it.

If something fails, think of a way to get around it. If your design doesn’t turn out how you’d like, it should still turn out great!

Keep Up with Our Off the Clock Design Challenge!

We loved learning more about Christopher McMahan’s fun — albeit challenging — experience with our Off the Clock Design Challenge. We hope you did, too!

If Christopher’s interview piqued your interest, you can learn more about Off the Clock, including our new contenders for 2018. Designs are already in progress, and winners will be announced September 4, 2018 — so check back often for contest updates!

Who will be the next “Chris McMahan”?

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