Who is 'tinnovator' Matthew Poage?

Matthew Poage's Swiss AVR knife.
Matthew Poage's Swiss AVR knife.
Courtesy Matthew Poage

You might call Matthew Poage something of a Renaissance man. By trade, he straddles the ancient and modern worlds as a mathematics and computer science teacher. Like other Renaissance men before him, Poage also understands the importance of art as a counterbalance to science. This combination of seemingly unrelated areas is a great description of how Matthew Poage works. He sees the art and the science in all things and puts them together in his work.

As an artist, Poage is most interested in production pottery -- creating a piece and replicating it over and over until the artist's interest wanes and he or she creates a new piece. Poage says the medium fits his outlook perfectly. "Production pottery combines physical skill with design consideration and aesthetic judgments," he says. But the design choices the math teacher makes are appropriately subject to chaos theory: Making the same piece over and again may seem a bit boring at first, until you look more closely at the unpredictable and situational forces that make each piece distinct. The judgments and decisions "are tempered by the randomness of working with clay and glazes in a high fire environment," says Poage [source: Poage].

Poage more overtly combines his love of art and science through his inventions. He was just entering the world of do-it-yourself electronics when he came across a project on the Internet created by Limor Fried that uses an old Altoids tin as the housing for a functional audio speaker. Fried named his project "the Minty Boost" after the Altoids mints.

Poage had already been advised to start by selecting an enclosure for his electronics project; this provides the parameters (and inspiration) for the rest of the project. "I had a small speaker from an old Macintosh, a 9-volt battery and an Altoids tin on my desk," Poage says. "The first two fit perfectly in the third and I knew that I had an interesting design/electronics project" [source: Poage].

After undertaking Fried's project, Matthew Poage became a tinnovator -- a person who finds new uses for old Altoids tins. More specifically, he became an electronics tinnovator. With the Minty Boost under his belt, Poage began thinking of new ideas of his own. His masterpiece thus far is the Altoids tin Swiss AVR knife.