Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts.
Name: Hudson Verwys
School: Rockford High School
Jam: Designing and building
Rockford — If you give Hudson Verwys a thing you’d like him to build, he’s happy to take it on. If there’s no blueprint for it, even better.
“I like trying to solve problems when there is no real instruction book, when you’ve got a problem that most people don’t have and you can’t go find a YouTube video on it,” the Rockford High senior says. “You’ve got to figure it out yourself. I like those kinds of challenges.”
He’s tackled plenty of challenges and figured them out himself, as a sort of go-to handyman at the school. Whether helping rebuild a car’s front end, custom-making a cabinet for the front office or building a storage shed for a community member, Hudson has a special talent for coming up with designs and putting them together, said Brian Richardson, his industrial technology teacher.
“He’s just that kid that, when somebody comes to us with a project, he’s the guy we say, ‘All right, Hudson, we’ve got a project; you’re going to be doing it,’” Richardson says.
“He’s a very good problem-solver. He is more than willing to take on a project that is out of his comfort zone.”
How did an aspiring Navy man come by his DIY skills? Read on.
How old were you when this special talent of yours became something you wanted to pursue, and what’s the story there?
“I have always enjoyed woodworking and working with my hands,” Hudson says. “Growing up, working with my dad and grandpa with wood and power tools was a huge part of my childhood.”
He has fond memories of hanging out in the pole barn woodshop behind his house with his father, Jeremy (an assistant principal at Cedar Springs High School), and grandfather, Mark Verwys. His grandpa in particular liked to tackle unusual jobs, such as building a well-pump cover for his sprinkler system, and Hudson would learn by watching him.
Calling himself “a LEGO kid,” Hudson says he’s always had a mechanical inclination. “I have no idea why. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been wired.”
What is it about engineering and carpentry that you enjoy so much, and why do you think you’re so skilled at it?
“I like tearing stuff apart and putting it back together, just to see how it works.”
He did this recently, in fact, when a new vacuum was delivered to his house. He asked his mother, Northview High School teacher Betsy Verwys, if he could put it together – which he promptly did.
“I hate just sitting around,” he explains. “Like, video games? I hate video games. You sit for an hour playing video games and I have to think, what could I have done in that hour that actually could have benefited myself, or benefited somebody? It seems like such a waste of time.”
What are a few accomplishments related to your special talent?
One recent piece of Hudson’s handiwork was a customized cabinet for the high school front office, a drop-off/pick-up location for students and parents. He hand-drew the design, put the dimensions into a CAD program and gave the staff three options. After they chose one, he bought two 4-by-8 sheets of plywood from Lowe’s and rip-sawed them into shelving.
He embellished the piece with the Rams logo, which he cut into 1/8-inch plywood on the Freshman Center laser-engraving machine and then spray-painted. The whole thing took about a week, partly constructed in that same pole barn where he worked with his father and grandfather.
He’s also made shelving for other schools, picture frames for school offices and storage sheds along with other woodshop students. In addition, he does jobs at Magnify Church, where he works as an intern, including building stairs for the stage.
One job that didn’t pan out, however, was devising a cart for a wrestling dummy used by team members for practice grappling. But even that was a learning experience.
“We didn’t fail; we just learned how not to build it,” he says with a laugh.
Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact on you? In what way did they inspire or guide you?
“Mr. Richardson and Mr. (Chad) Koch, the woodshop teachers at Rockford, have been very good with helping me figure things out when I get a little lost.”
What are your professional aspirations? Is your talent for designing and making things something you’d like to pursue as a career?
“I am going into the Navy to be a radar tech. This field will be great for me because it does have a lot of hands-on problem solving and trying to fix problems on the fly … which is what I love to do.”
The technology skills he’ll pick up will give him a lot of options in the Navy or in lucrative business fields later, he says. He’ll go to basic training in July, in Chicago.
If you walked into your school building to theme music, what would the song be?
“I love Led Zeppelin. I could walk to any one of their songs.” If forced to choose just one, he would go with “When the Levee Breaks” – although “Ramble On” is great as well, he hastens to add. “They released 108 songs and I am still struggling to find one that I really dislike.”