BY CARSON DESHEVY-RENOUF
James Hobson spends many of his evenings tinkering, chipping away at one of many projects and designs that each carry potential to one day become something amazing. The only real enemy to his progress is sleep.
The Conestoga College mechanical systems engineering graduate and jack-of-all-trades describes himself as a “hacksmith, a multi-disciplined craftsman who can fashion tools, parts or even works of art out of various materials and components – items often overlooked as garbage or scraps to the untrained eye.” Essentially, he tinkers, innovates and assembles interesting things out of any materials he can get his hands on.
“(Kind of) like a cross between a modern-day MacGyver and a poor man’s Tony Stark,” said Hobson in an email.
Of the many things that Hobson has created, his most illustrious project is the exoskeleton. It was inspired by the science fiction thriller Elysium that is, as insisted by Hobson, not complete, but most certainly impressive. The exoskeleton is a wearable device created out of steel and pneumatic parts that uses compressed air to increase the pushing or pulling strength of the wearer. With it, Hobson reached a level of Internet fame, posting a video of himself on YouTube lifting 170 lbs. of steel and concrete with ease.
“It’s not done. What went viral is literally the very first proof-of-concept prototype,” Hobson said.
His exoskeleton is yet to become a fully functional piece. In his viral video, the arms were only running at half pressure which increased the curling power by 75 lbs. At full pressure each arm is capable of 150 lbs. of curling power resulting in a combined 300 lbs.
With the exoskeleton currently only built to improve arm strength, he intends on pursuing this project further with the next steps being legs and powered shoulders “to allow for more movement.” A far-off (thanks to cost, technology and resources) goal is an Iron Man-like suit and another exoskeleton called an “exo-loader” from the movie Alien.
This project, although popular and impressive, isn’t the only piece of work worth noting. Hobson has done many other interesting projects, such as electrified metal claws modeled after those of the X-Men icon Wolverine, and converted a 1993 Honda Del Sol from gasoline powered to electric powered. Hobson said, however, that he struggles to focus on one project exclusively.
“I get sidetracked on my projects because I’m constantly coming up with ideas for other projects. It’s pretty hard to stay on task sometimes,” he said.
Getting sidetracked isn’t the only thing that slows down Hobson’s progress. Oddly enough, the biggest hindrance is sleep. According to him, he only gets an average of six hours per night, but would “much rather get rid of it altogether.” He would rather have all those hours to do the things he loves instead.
Hobson said he hasn’t really had any inspiring figures who made him want to do what he does. He does, however, enjoy the fictional persona of Tony Stark, more commonly known as the superhero Iron Man. Hobson also said if anyone would be considered a hero to him, it would likely be Elon Musk, who is basically a real life Tony Stark.
“He uses his money for real meaningful projects; he’s not looking to make more money for the sake of making money, but to actually make a real and lasting change for the world. That’s what I’d like to do – make a difference,” he said.
Hobson doesn’t really see himself commercializing any of his projects. Looking at his exoskeleton, he did say, however, that if he could find a way to make a commercial model of it, he’d love to one day start a company producing them to assist people with physical disabilities or even to assist in disaster scenarios as well. He views the medical market as his best bet to one day help people.
As it stands, many of his ideas are just ideas for now, each with the potential to become something. And Hobson will continue to tinker his way to being another real life Tony Stark, one exoskeleton at a time.
“Someday I hope to make a difference in this world – but until then I’ll just be tinkering in my garage,” he said.