One of Riley B.’s first assignments at the plant nursery at Camp Tillamook Youth Transitional Facility was to remove harvested seeds from their outer coating, so that the inner seeds could be saved for future planting.
He noticed the job was tedious and time-consuming. He also noticed that another youth had made a small tool to help him extract the seeds.
“I never thought about making my own tool to make the job easier,” says Riley, 23. “Then I started thinking about how we could do this differently. I saw a dry seed extractor online that someone had designed, and it was open source [its creator made it freely available for anyone to use].”
Riley asked the teachers at the facility’s vocational technology program if he could build his own prototype of the design, and they gave their blessing. The prototype worked so well that he ultimately made two — one for the nursery, and one for the gardening program that serves the adjacent Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility.
The finished product — a wood and Plexiglas contraption about two feet high — uses suction from a vacuum to remove the seeds from their coating as they pass through a narrow channel. [Check out the video below to see how the machine works.]
For the nursery extractor, Riley repurposed an unused cart on wheels to turn it into a larger unit, with shelves and a fan, where the seeds can dry.
Riley’s analytical approach to projects — and his penchant for inventing — led him to take advantage of many vocational education programs while at OYA.
When he was at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, he became a staple figure in the Moody Industrial Arts building, where he earned multiple certifications. He was the first OYA youth to receive an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification in engine diagnostics and repair.
He also participated in an event at MacLaren to install a special operating system on laptops for use by youth in their living units. Since moving to Camp Tillamook, Riley has earned an additional certification in web development and participated in the facility’s OYA Geek Squad program, which allows youth to build and fix computers. He’s currently got an eye on a future career in software engineering.
“I have that MacGuyver mentality,” he says. “I like to figure out what’s available and see how much I can do with it. I come up with inventions all the time. Half the time it’s not practical, and half the time it works, like the seed separator.
“Understanding the pieces and how they fit together for these projects has helped me learn how to think that way in general. I can use those skills across the board.”