Teenage ‘Renaissance Man’ has sparked a powerful interest in science and art

By Peggy Spear on April 21, 2013

Cameron MiraCameron Mira, Clayton’s resident 17-year-old Leonardo Da Vinci, is a familiar outdoor sight some nights near his home off Marsh Creek Road where the lightning from his latest tesla coils project brightens the night sky in colorful bursts.

But that original Renaissance Man didn’t have to worry about knocking out the neighbor’s wi-fi.

“Yeah, a couple of times we’ve lost wi-fi because of the project,” says Cameron. “I just have to remember to turn off the router before.”

With a brain like Cameron’s, there’s no question he’ll be able to remember small details like that. Known as CameronDAX, he is a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” with a passion for art and music, and he is quickly making a name for himself at Maker Faires – conventions of scientific and robotic inventions – throughout California.

His latest project is TARDIS Tesla #8, which he hope will be an interactive experience that will appeal to fans of the BBC series Dr. Who.

For those unfamiliar with TARDIS Tesla, it is an interactive electric performance game developed by Cameron that uses two large tesla coils, a replica TARDIS (the blue police box time machine in Dr. Who), and sonic screwdriver TV remotes. Two players (or “companions,” in Dr. Who-speak) demonstrate their ability to use a sonic screwdriver to gain access to the TARDIS.

It is the latest in many art-meets-science projects and games the DVC student has created, and he is currently looking for donations to help fund it so that it will be complete by the San Mateo Makers Faire in May.

“I think that it’s important to be interactive,” he says. “You can look at something, or you can experience it by actually being a part of it. That’s why I enjoy creating games.”

Cameron’s mom, Carla, doesn’t think it’s odd that while most 17-year-olds are picking out senior ball tuxes and playing “Halo,” her son spends his time creating sophisticated high-voltage gaming installations.

“He’s been wowing us since he was 2,” she says, recalling the time when, as a toddler, he used a screwdriver to completely dismantle a toy metal truck. Twice. Or the time, at age 6, he rigged a toy phone to his parents VCR to make the phone ring. Or, at 10, he put some screws and guitar wire into a piece of driftwood and electrified it, making a homemade instrument.

Just normal activities for Cameron.

Carla Mira credits Cameron’s scientific and artistic inclinations – as well as that of his 8-year-old brother Skylar – to the fact that she has home-schooled them. “Being home-schooled gave them the opportunity to follow their passions, and truly develop them at their own speed and level,” she says.

She took Cameron on frequent trips to local science centers and technology museums, and let him develop his passion “in his own way.”

Cameron graduated high school early, and after finishing at DVC he wants to pursue a degree in art, at either California College for the Arts in Oakland or the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

“My ultimate dream is to work for Pixar, so I feel like an art degree will help the most,” he says.

He credits his love of art to his mother, a local artist, and to the fact that he was never told anything he did was “bad art.” “Every kid starts out an artist, but it gets beat out of them over time,” he says. “It’s sad.”

He likes to mentor Skylar when he needs it – and he ruefully says that isn’t often – and also teaches at Oakland’s Hacker Scouts, the non-profit organization that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education for young kids.

And he spends his nights coming up with fun high voltage science experiments that would even astound “The Doctor.”

For more information on Cameron and his projects, or to donate, visit http://camdax.dyndns-free.com/index.php.

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