By Scott Hamilton
July 13, 2020, marked a sad day for the Discovery Channel staff, the cast and fans of “Mythbusters.” Grant Masaru Imahara died suddenly at the age of 49 from a ruptured brain aneurysm. Imahara was born Oct. 23, 1970, to a Japanese-American family in Los Angeles. Grant studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.
Imahara, though best known for his role on “Mythbusters,” had a long career in special effects. He began his career in the Industrial Light and Magic division of Lucasfilm, where his work was featured in films such as “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Matrix” and “Terminator.”
Imahara began his television career as a contestant on “BattleBots,” where he competed with his personally designed robot, Deadblow, and later returned to the show as a judge. In 2005, Imahara joined the cast of “Mythbusters” in 2005, appearing in over 200 episodes before departing the show in 2014.
During his time as a “Mythbuster,” he shined a bright light on the electrical engineering field as he showed the fun side of engineering. It is every young engineer’s dream to tinker and build unique projects. “Mythbusters” allowed Imahara to live the dream, and many of us lived the dream along with him through watching every episode of “Mythbusters.”
I had the unique privilege of working with the Research Support Service (RSS) Team at Missouri University of Science and Technology, where I worked with students of various engineering majors. Among the students I worked with, many of them pursued degrees in engineering from watching “Mythbusters” and a few had the dream of become the next build engineer for the show.
The RSS team, and the students that had the opportunity to work for it, did many “Mythbusters”-like projects in the six years I worked there. Many of the projects were inspired by the show. Among the projects were Nonavitra (nine windows) an immersive display environment for the visualization of scientific data sets that consisted of a large wall for nine high definition 3-D displays. Nonavitra was used by engineering students and faculty to simulate real world design prior to the build phase. It allowed inventors to create and test digital prototypes of inventions before moving to the physical build.
The second and probably more impressive project was called MinerFly and is still in existence today. The students used Nonavitra and a series of computer drafting utilities to design a custom, flying drone. The drone was designed to carry payloads of scientific equipment, weighing up to 35-pounds, for a flight time of approximately one-hour before needing to land for a recharge. This opened the doors for geologists to study rock faces without the risk of climbing, and transportation engineers to study roads, bridges and railways from the comfort of a portable office.
I am sad to see a role model like Grant Imahara leave this world, but I am sure that one of the many students he influenced through his career will step up to fill the void. I’m excited to see what the future holds. The one thing I learned through both my experience at RSS and watching Imahara on “Mythbusters” is that nothing is impossible to build, if you never give up and keep learning from your mistakes.
Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.