Ryan Parker, his father Rob “Poppy” Parker, and their friend Bill LeVasseur are the subjects of BrainStormers, a new Weather Channel series profiling their unorthodox inventions, which make use of Colorado’s outdoor elements—all on a budget. LeVasseur, a former F-16 mechanic; Parker, a real estate agent; and Poppy, a retired farmer, tinker on projects like solar water heaters and wind generators, often using whatever materials are available. We sat down with the Denver-area trio prior to the March 22 premiere of BrainStormers.
5280: What’s been your best idea, or the one you’re most proud of?
Ryan Parker: We got the opportunity and had the time to put effort into an ATV for a gentleman who is paralyzed. We gave him the opportunity to have more freedom with novel hand controls and neat tricks. It felt so good because it was real and genuine.
What important realizations have you had through the invention process?
Ryan: Failure is a part of creating, and it’s necessary to build and innovate. For our concept video, we cobbled together a log splitter, but if there were any failure, I think there would be a lack of time.
What was your most out-there attempt?
Rob “Poppy” Parker: The honey extractor was a tough build because we didn’t have time. We were up until midnight slamming stuff out but it wasn’t a total failure. It worked. A honey extractor has to be food-grade, and we built one out of a washing machine and a dryer and the concept was brilliant, but we stumbled over quite a few things. I don’t think we’ve built one that totally failed.
What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to attempt, no matter how implausible?
Bill LeVasseur: The three of us are so different but able to work together, so I don’t think we’ve ever said, “If only!” Even if I called them up and said, “I have an idea for a portable scuba birdcage cleaner, come on down.” We’re not held back by our limited knowledge. That’s something my dad taught me, too. If you need something, find it.
When did you realize you had a knack for this?
Ryan: I grew up on a farm and you build things out of necessity. After about seven years, we realized we were going to build things and help people and now we focus on weather-related challenges. We’re all affected from weather; it’s an equalizer.
Bill: I met Ryan years and years ago. Both of our dads taught us that we’re going to use what we have to fix things instead of going to the store and buying it, so that rubbed off on me and Ryan.
What inventions could Colorado benefit from?
Bill: The whole first season [of BrainStormers], all eight hours is Colorado-based. The great thing about that is they can be anywhere in the world, but we started here.
Ryan: With over 300 days of sunshine here, that’s something we can all harness the power of and use.
If we found ourselves in an extreme weather situation like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, what would you invent?
Bill: A bigger lunchbox. I’m an eater!
Ryan: If it fell on the ground, you wouldn’t eat it. If it’s raining spaghetti and meatballs, we would capture it, make sure it’s safe and send it off.
Bill: I have a visual of a hot tub of marinara sauce and I’m soaking in it.
Poppy: Now you see what I have to put up with.