‘Stuff that’s really cool’

Quint Crispin posing in front of projects he has made

Photos by Al Harith Al Mahrooqi

Alum sparks passion for engineering with his popular ‘Quint BUILDs’ YouTube channel

Can you harvest energy from your rain gutter? Can you recoup energy by mounting a wind turbine on the front of a Bronco? Can you build a knife-throwing machine?

These are the kinds of questions that inspire Quint Crispin, B.S. manufacturing engineering ’00, to create YouTube videos that illustrate the math behind engineering principles and document the process of iterating on an idea.

When Crispin started the channel Quint BUILDs (Better Understanding Involves Learning and Doing), he did not have high expectations. He was pleased when his video about using water pressure to pump up a car tire hit 50 views. When his cousin assigned it to his middle school math class it bumped up to 70. Then, suddenly it shot up to 1,200 views in one day. Today, that video has 5.8 million views.

“It got the attention of the YouTube algorithm and it just took off,” Crispin said. Since then, Quint BUILDs has reached over a half-million subscribers and his most popular video has 13 million views. He is flabbergasted and elated by the success.

“I never thought I would have a life like this. It’s just amazing,” he said.

Crispin’s day job is designing new products as a senior design engineer at Leupold and Stevens, a Beaverton-based sporting optics company known for riflescopes. Twenty years ago, he started as a manufacturing engineer, working on hardware like riflescope mounts. Today, he is the inventor behind nine utility patents for the company, with more on the way.

Crispin could not imagine success in engineering when he was a first-year student at Oregon State University, where he struggled to get the good grades that had come easily to him at Tillamook High School.

“I was honestly asking myself, ‘Do I belong here?’ I thought, ‘Maybe I'm not engineering material,’” he said.

Then, a course that sent many engineering students packing — physics with calculus, taught by Professor Rubin Landau — had a different effect on him.

“I rushed to that class,” he said. “The way math and physics are connected finally clicked for me."

That early experience, of struggling to understand engineering concepts, motivates Crispin to produce videos that inspire an “Aha!” moment in his audience. He uses flashy, fun projects like a knife-throwing machine to get people’s attention, then uses those projects to introduce concepts like kinetic energy. To his delight, the strategy is working. His videos have inspired thousands of comments. A few examples:

  • These type of experiments are brilliant to explain physics to kids in a real world demonstration. Well done.
  • I just wanna say thank you. Your video helped me finish my technical analysis on hydropower for my ENS class. The way you broke down the process along with the different parts involved really helped me.
  • Wow, this was entertaining, educational, and honestly just fun to watch. Good job, dude.

Fans who appreciate his charismatic delivery of engineering concepts, peppered with “dad jokes,” might be surprised to know that Crispin once had a fear of public speaking.

“When I had to give a report at work, I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye,” he said. “I realized that this fear was going to hold me back in my career.”

A co-worker recommended Toastmasters, an international club that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. At first Crispin was resistant, but he gained enough confidence to enter speech competitions. In 2017, he made it to state.

“I was terrified getting up on that stage with all the lights, a microphone, and big speakers, in front of an audience of more than 100 people, but there was something about that crucible of pressure that broke through this barrier in my mind,” he said.

Crispin won that competition and went on to the international competition in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he earned second place in the semifinal.

The training with Toastmasters also helped him to refine the storytelling skills he uses both in developing videos and as a leader of his company, where he is part of a team that gives orientation presentations to new employees.

Although the two jobs are a lot of work, Crispin enjoys involving his kids in the video productions, which provide amazing opportunities for hands-on learning. (How many dads can power an oven with a car-mounted wind turbine?) The YouTube channel has become a way for Crispin to fund engineering projects that answer questions he has long wondered about.

"I’ve got to pinch myself,” he said. “I can’t believe that I go to work and I do stuff that’s really cool, and I come home and I do stuff that’s really cool.”

Watch ‘Quint BUILDs’
Learn more about Crispin's projects and watch his videos at beav.es/T8e

Sept. 13, 2023