On July 13, 2020 Grant Imahara died from a brain aneurism at the age of 49. Imahara exemplified one of the worst kept secrets about STEM careers: STEM IS FUN!!! He was born in Los Angeles and went to the University of Southern California earning a BS in electrical engineering. Imahara’s passion was robotics and after graduating he was hired by Lucasfilm where, among many other films, he worked on the Star Wars prequels as one of the few R2D2 operators. Other robots he helped create were the contemporary version of the Energizer Bunny, Craig Ferguson’s robot sidekick, Geoff Peterson, and his own battle robot Deadblow which competed on the Comedy Central show BattleBots, a robot fighting competition.
His connections in the movie industry brought him other unique opportunities, one in particular took him from behind the scenes to in front of the camera. Imahara was best known for his work as one of the Build Team on Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters (2005-2014). The show and its cast were not only fun to watch, but highlighted the key scientific principles of skepticism and experimentation. In 2016, Imahara and his fellow Build Team members took on some of histories greatest inventions, prison escapes, and bank heists in a similar fashion on the Netflix show The White Rabbit Project.
While every STEM career should have value and reward those who partake, Grant Imahara’s career in STEM took it to the highest levels of fun and entertainment. His high visibility and infectious enjoyment as an engineer likely influenced many a young tinkerer to pursue careers in STEM, helping to improve and diversify STEM fields. An interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson revealed Imahara was aware of his influence, stating, “If we keep dreaming and allowing these kids to have these dreams and have these experiences, some day they will be able to create them in reality.” A sci-fi “geek” to the end, he excitedly posted in March about one of his last projects, a Baby Yoda robot (a la The Mandalorian) to tour children’s hospitals.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26365570