Justin Beckerman was walking to high school with some friends when one of them spied an abandoned soda fountain in a parking lot. "Dude, you should go and get that," his buddy said. He knew Beckerman was collecting parts to build a one-man submersible, with the hope of piloting around New Jersey's four-square-mile Lake Hopatcong. After school, Beckerman dismantled the soda fountain, harvested several pieces from the machine, including a compressed-air regulator, and rushed home to get to work.
The 18-year-old's love of building took off at age two, when his dad started taking him to a junkyard to hunt for old computers, printers, and motors.