ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Many sports fans around the Alexandria area know Matthew Carlsen for what he does between the lines of competition in athletics.
The senior for the Cardinals is a three-sport athlete. He’s the quarterback for the football team, a defenseman in hockey and one of the top pitchers and hitters in baseball. Those who follow his YouTube channel get a look at how active he is on the academic side of things, as well.
Carlsen says his Matthew Carlsen YouTube channel is about promoting creativity and inspiring others to make their project ideas a reality.
His latest invention combines his passions for engineering, physics and sports, and it has already generated quite a bit of interest on his channel after getting more than 1,630 views within the first five days after the video was up. In the video, Carlsen details from start to finish how he created what he is sure is the first-ever hockey stick taping machine.
“I kind of just keep an idea in the back of my mind,” he said. “I thought about this for a good two weeks before I thought of a concept that actually worked to tape the stick.”
Carlsen is well aware of the hockey tradition that runs deep across Minnesota, and the idea for this creation came while he was taping his own stick in the locker room as a junior last winter. He went to work buying the components he needed for the project.
Some of the materials, such as the PVC pipe that forms the frame of the machine, was bought locally at ACE Hardware in Alexandria. Other parts — such as the drivers and the two motors needed to create the rotational and horizontal motion to tape the stick — had to be purchased online. Other pieces were designed and printed at home with his 3D printer.
“It was nine months before I even had the motors turning,” Carlsen said. “I started with the main base during last season just because I’m so busy with sports and everything. I probably could have finished it a lot sooner, but I just sort of pushed it off because I didn’t have time. About three months ago, I had to program everything to get it to do what it does. I got that working, so I could get the motors running.”
Carlsen ran into some initial problems.
“I had a different motor that wasn’t strong enough, so I had to buy a brand new motor and reattach it all,” he said. “At one point, the power wasn’t correctly distributed to the motors, so one would work and the other one didn’t... All of that kept delaying the process.”
Carlsen does not have a lot of freedom in his schedule. Three sports keep him busy enough, and he said he never goes to bed before his homework is finished. Most of the hours spent on this project came on weekends when he found a little more time to spare.
Once it was time to test the product, the tape did not initially feed off of the roll evenly across the stick. Through modifications, Carlsen eventually had a machine that was creating a perfectly even tape job on the blade.
The arm of the machine starts by moving horizontally toward the heel. The operator then connects the first strip of tape before the machine does the rest by feeding the tape back toward the toe. The final step was to produce the video for his YouTube channel that would introduce the hockey stick taping machine to the public.
“I think it’s really cool, especially these last couple days,” Carlsen said. “I’ve gotten a lot of text messages and support. That’s been cool. If I would have told myself it would take this long to finish, I don’t know that I would have done it, just because I have some other projects in mind I want to build. I’m starting those now, but I worked on this into the night several times.”
Carlsen did a patent search and said he did not find anything else like this. He filed a provisional patent application that allows him to market the product and reach out to businesses to gauge their interest in the invention.
“I plan on emailing and contacting different hockey-related companies to see if they would be interested in some sort of business,” he said.
This is likely just the beginning stages of a career in engineering for Carlsen. He plans on majoring in either mechanical or electrical engineering at Bethel University in St. Paul this fall. He will also play baseball for the Royals.
“I think it's cool to create things that people have never seen before,” Carlsen said. “Just to get people creatively thinking. I like building, I like designing. Designing is my main interest, so for me just seeing something work for the first time is so cool, especially if I made it. It just drives me to finish the projects.”