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#GeeksGetCovered: A Maker’s Story

As part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s #GeeksGetCovered, effort we’ll be sharing stories about what access to affordable, quality healthcare means to geeks across America.
OSTP Geeks Get Covered David Perry

Oregon-based engineer David Perry playing an open-source 3D printable electronic violin.

President Obama has said that 3D printing has “the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” David Perry, an Oregon-based mechanical engineer, couldn’t agree more.  As a self-described “maker”, David is working to develop useful applications for inexpensive 3D printing. One project of his is an open-source “F-F-Fiddle,” a fully 3D printable electronic violin. 
When the Affordable Care Act became law, David knew that it would be even easier for him to pursue his dream. He knew the health insurance marketplaces would be open, and he could access quality and affordable health care without being tied to an employer. So, starting April 1st, David will have more time to develop great ideas and help encourage everyone to “make”.  David recently enrolled through the Marketplaces, and with the security of affordable, quality health coverage, he has decided to begin working full-time for the startup he founded, OpenFab PDX, which focuses on low-cost digital design and manufacturing tools. 
As part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s #GeeksGetCovered, effort we’ll be sharing stories about what access to affordable, quality healthcare means to geeks across America. 
I recently caught up with David, founder of OpenFabPDX, who shared his story with us on Twitter through @WhiteHouseOSTP’s recently launched #GeeksGetCovered effort:

Why do you consider yourself a geek?
I work as a mechanical engineer, where the majority of my work involves fancy, expensive computer programs, and I love it! Growing up I also spent a great deal of time playing with computers – both at the command line level and flying around the world in Microsoft Flight Simulator. I also wear large glasses and read almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy.

What does having affordable health care mean to you?
Affordable means that I'm not stressed out by my monthly payments. Health care is when I can get the routine care that I need and also feel confident that if something bad were to happen, I'd survive without a bunch of bills that I can't pay. With these powers combined, I don't worry about health care. That means I can focus on other things in my life, like 3D printers.

How has the Affordable Care Act enabled you to pursue new opportunities?
I've been waiting for 2014 to come around so that I could easily compare and shop for comprehensive and reliable health insurance plans. That's one less barrier to focusing full-time on my own business.

What are some challenges you have had to overcome in your line of work?
I run into a lot of misconceptions about 3D printing and what you can do with inexpensive 3D printers. That's okay, because it's my job is to teach others that knowledge. I've had to learn how to clearly and quickly explain the technology and its capabilities. Sometimes, though, it's those same misconceptions that lead to brilliant ideas.

Also, anyone who is self-employed or starting a business faces a ton of uncertainty. Will my customers find my services valuable? Will I be able to pay my bills? Coming to terms with the uncertainty without feeling discouraged – that's also a challenge.

What motivated you to share your story?
I'm a millennial—engaging on social media is what we do! More specifically, I'm disappointed by the lack of awareness of why the Affordable Care Act is awesome, so I'm excited to help spread the word. Obamacare is a step in the right direction for health care in the U.S.

What advice do you have for other geeks?
Don't ever stop learning and asking questions. Also, when you have the opportunity, take the time to answer questions as well. We are constantly facing difficult challenges, exciting opportunities, and new technologies.  Get out there and contribute -- share your work, help others, and make something! And, get health insurance, too, so that you don't get distracted from doing what you love to do by things like injuries and bills.

Are you an entrepreneur, scientist, engineer, technologist, or other type of "geek" who received coverage through the Affordable Care Act? Share your story with @WhiteHouseOSTP using #geeksgetcovered.

Bess Evans is a Senior Public Engagement Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy