Andrei Provini explains one of his hundreds of inventions: headlamp spectacles. (Video by Dustin Racioppi)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Christmastime at the Provini household in Middletown is full of tradition, one of them being the line of questioning Liz Provini delivers to her son, Andrei.
“Every single year, we can’t find the bolts for the (tree) stand because Andrei’s got them in one of his inventions,” she said.
Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood off Navesink River Road, Liz Provini’s home is as much, if not more, a laboratory for her 19-year-old son who, since the age of five, has tinkered with everything from bolts to strainers to stumbled-upon Volkswagens to create hundreds of inventions.
“He’s very creative,” she said. “His mind is going a million miles an hour. If he doesn’t have an invention in the works, he gets very frustrated.”
Provini, his mother said, was born to create. More specifically, he was born to change the world, he said, and doesn’t see himself settling for any less.
Provini in front of his two-story tree house, complete with a slide, zipline, and half a Volkswagen. Below, with a robotic arm he made to expedite getting dressed. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
Rather than harbor his findings and keep them a secret, Provini wants to share his gift any way he can. When he’s not making gadgets for himself or school, he’s making them for friends or just about anybody who asks.
“I feel like people today, I know they have all this cool technology but they’re holding onto it,” Provini said, “but I want to bring this world into a new generation.”
Take for example the universal charger he made for his father, Charles, who, as CEO of Red Bank-based solar developer Natcore Techonolgy, does a ton of traveling. He doesn’t have to worry about looking for a special jack to get his devices to work with varying electrical outlets; his son made him a charger with built-in power.
On a recent Thanksgiving, young Provini pondered the Lazy Susan, then one-upped the household staple by mounting a kitchen strainer to a base with a motor, creating what he calls the Rotator Waiter, “because I didn’t know what the point of a Lazy Susan was, because I was still using energy, so that’s not too lazy.”
Provini, who spends most of his off-time piecing together parts into the wee hours of the morning, said his friends tease him that he puts an incredible amount of work and energy into making inventions so he can be lazy.
Like the robotic arm attached to a PC processor he made while he was a student at the University of New Haven.
“When I was in college this thing would get my clothes out in the morning and close the drawer. In some events I’d have it get my breakfast for me,” Provini said. “Talk about lazy, right?”
His drive goes far beyond manufacturing something for convenience. Provini’s mind simply won’t allow him to do anything else.
“Ideas will never run out,” he said. “Even when I think they will, ideas keep coming.”
It all started when he was five and an admittedly annoying child who wanted things his parents wouldn’t give him, he said.
“I wanted everything. I was the biggest nag,” Provini said. “My parents would say no and I figured they’d keep saying no, so I built my own things.”
One of his earliest creations was an action figure/metal detector that he used as a stud detector in his home’s walls. That’s when he realized he could use his inventions for a greater purpose than self-satisfaction.
From there he busted out inventions like a solar-powered DVD player, glasses with a hands-free headlamp, a hydraulic pogo stick and a backpack with built-in power, which he put to use his first day on campus in New Haven.
“Somebody’s car broke down and I did have to jump-start them,” he said. “It took 10 minutes but we got it started.”
Now a mechanical engineer major at Brookdale Community College, and with hopes to return to school in New Haven, Provini said his goal is to invent something “revolutionary,” perhaps in the auto industry. He foresees inventing something along the lines of using perpetual energy to power a car.
He’s working on a prototype his tenth in his bedroom at home, made from parts he’s gotten at the hardware store and, naturally, at home.
Liz Provini said every year for Christmas, family friends ask her what they should get Andrei. She tells them he’d be happy to dig through a junkyard to pick out a gift.
“Just junk. Boxes and boxes of junk,” she said. “But to him it’s treasure.”