Jackson Laverman’s Iron Man suit might not technically meet the requirements of being, well, iron, but that doesn’t make it any less super.
With the help of an online community at 405th.com, the 16-year-old West High student found plans for taking a three-dimensional image (Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit) and converting it into two dimensions. The art, known as Pepakura, creates 3-D models from 2-D materials.
In Jackson’s case, he cut a lot of paper.
“Thousands of these little pieces of paper,” said his mother, Amy Laverman.
Once the paper was cut into the correct shapes, Jackson glued everything together. Following the designs of his online comrades, Jackson covered the suit in fiberglass resin, “then covered the resin with fiberglass and then resined that,” he said. “It made it super strong.”
After that process, he began sanding. And sanding.
“Lots and lots and lots of sanding,” he said. “I had some automotive body filler to fill in holes and cracks and stuff like that. That process was the longest.”
During that time, Amy took her son to auto body parts stores for his supplies, waiting in the wings while Jackson went to the counter and explained what he needed.
“This is the kind of stuff people do when they repair a bumper on a car,” Amy said. “That’s the process he used.”
All that was left then was the painting.
Amy Laverman estimates that her son put in 15 hours a week since November on the project, and only $150 in materials.
“He kept sending me over to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby to buy card stock for him,” Amy said.
The price includes a special plastic paper imported from Hong Kong that lights up when an electric current runs through it, to give Jackson’s Iron Man suit a realistic effect in the eyes and the chest’s arc reactor. Jackson hooked a 9-volt battery to the suit, which glows nicely.
Now, that’s a lot of work for an Iron Man suit when you can buy a plastic one in the Halloween aisle at just about any chain store, and especially for a kid who, he and his mother both admit, isn’t actually a big fan of the war-fighting superhero.
“It was more of a challenging project compared to some of the things I saw,” Jackson said. “An engineering project. It was just something I really thought I could do and a challenge I could conquer.”
Jackson, who went to Thursday night’s midnight viewing of “Iron Man 2” (“I love the movie,” he said), headed back to the Shiloh 14 on Friday to show off his suit and help promote the movie. He can’t sit down in the suit, which he estimates at around 20 pounds, and needs some help getting it on.
That help is provided by his younger brother, a student at Arrowhead Elementary. To thank his brother, Jackson showed off the suit to the three sixth-grade classes on Thursday.
Showing it off is fun, but, for Jackson, the important part was the process.
“He’s always been a kid who likes to build things and create things,” his mother said. “I’ve always kind of predicted he’s going to be some kind of engineer.”
Prior to his Iron Man project, Jackson started making a Master Chief (from the video game “Halo”) suit, but didn’t complete it. He had also built several Lego Mindstorms projects, making a couple of robots.
“Then I found this forum and I was like, ‘Hey, this is something I might want to do,’ ” he said. “I would say that anybody can do this, given enough time and patience.”
“You need a lot of patience to finish it.”