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Face of Defense: Civilian Turns Computer Parts into Artwork

By Air Force Capt. Larry van der Oord
Special to American Forces Press Service

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 30, 2009 – A civilian administrator working for the Air Force here transforms worn out computer parts into unique works of art.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Miguel Rivera, with the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron in Southwest Asia, stands behind the sculptures he built from old hard drives and other computer parts Dec. 19, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tony Tolley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

When computer hard drives go bad, airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron here typically remove all of the pertinent data and send them to the local disposal unit for destruction.

However, Miguel Rivera has been using some old hard drives and other discarded computer parts to create a collection of distinctive sculptures. So far he has constructed two different cars, a motorcycle and a robot.

“I just started making them just a few months ago," said Rivera, who has worked with the squadron for the past five years.

“We had a growing pile of hard drives just lying around the shop,” Rivera explained. “One day I decided to take one apart, since I’d never looked at the ‘guts’ up close before. That’s pretty much how it all started.”

His first sculpture, a car-like vehicle, was built over one full weekend from standard 3.5-inch hard drives. It took a total of 33 hard drives to make.

“The first one wasn’t really difficult to put together, since I didn’t have to modify much other than the cover,” Rivera said. “Everything else just screwed on.”

Rivera’s second sculpture was another miniature car. His third piece of art, a motorcycle, was a bit more difficult to construct.

“I just couldn't get parts to mix well at first to reflect the look I wanted,” Rivera said. “It took many hours of taking apart pieces and putting them back together to get it right.”

Rivera’s favorite sculpture is the robot he built.

“In fact, I’m not sure I can out-do this one,” Rivera said of his robot sculpture. “Building it went surprisingly smooth; it took me about two full weeks to make.”

Rivera’s creations are displayed on his office desk. And, his handiwork is drawing outside attention. All four sculptures were recently featured on “Wired” magazine’s Web site.

Rivera “applies the same creativity in solving communication challenges as he applies in creating his very unique sculptures,” said Air Force Maj. Roy Rockwell, 386th ECS commander.

Meanwhile, Rivera is working on a fifth sculpture and plans to unveil his “Hard-drive Helicopter” within the next few weeks.

(Air Force Capt. Larry van der Oord serves with 386th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs.)

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