Teen’s mechanical prowess has a purpose
Whether it’s a broken belt or a clogged filter, Scott MacMillan can often diagnose the problem responsible for a malfunctioning vacuum within a few moments. If the vacuum can be turned on, he listens for unusual noises, and he inspects the brushes, filters, and bags. He may turn the vacuum off and give it a more detailed examination. Then, he will reach for his most trusted tools—an assortment of screwdrivers, a pair of shears, and an unwound metal coat hanger. He swears by this last tool, which will unclog just about any stopped-up hose.
“The first thing I always do is ask what is wrong with the vacuum,” explains Scott, a Georgetown High School junior. “Sometimes a piece isn’t moving, or it’s moving in the wrong way or making a funny noise. I check filters, look at the bag, and examine the brush. If the brush is spinning freely, then the belt is broken. If suction seems reduced, then filters may need changing. If something is wrong with the motor or electronic circuit board, then I can’t fix that. Everything else I can do, such as fixing belts, repairing cords, and general cleaning.”
Scott’s passion for vacuums dates back to early childhood, when he played with his parents’ vacuum cleaner, inspecting the parts and using the machine around the house. “I started playing with vacuums when I was about a year and a half old,” Scott claims with a laugh, “and I guess you could say that I never stopped. As a kid, I remember really liking toy vacuums, and I liked to go to stores and play with the vacuums. I can use just about any vacuum and find something that I like—it really depends on the independent machine.”
Scott has parlayed his passion for motorized domestic floor sweepers into a part-time job with the Georgetown Vacuum Center, where he serves as a salesman and helps with basic repairs. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, and it is,” says the young man, who hopes to direct his mechanical gifts toward aerospace engineering in the future. “I like working with people, and I like selling, too. I enjoy showing people the vacuums and helping them learn about all the features or locating the parts that they need.”
Even when he may one day devote more of his time to designing aircraft than repairing uprights, Scott will still likely have his collection of vintage machines. Accumulated over the past decade, the collection encompasses more than 300 canisters, uprights, and handhelds. Notable collectors’ items include a working 1930 Electrolux, a 1936 Rainbow that uses water as a filter, and two all-metal 1940s-era Regina uprights. “I do have a few noteworthy ones,” Scott says with a grin.