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EL DORADO, Ark. (AP) — Merari Davis works for a local Arkansas company as an electrical engineer, but in his spare time he tinkers with lights and transforms rundown vehicles.

His workspace he affectionately calls “the shop” is where he gets his hands dirty to the beat of blaring hip-hop music.

“After work, I work. I think I work harder after work . I got a lot of projects. I just like to do electronics and working on stuff,” he said. “Electronics is easy for me. I don’t really have to think about it. It’s like waking up in the morning to me . I try not to ask anyone for help, but sometimes I have to. Most of the time I come to the shop and stay over 17, 18 hours working on the weekends. Even after I don’t get home until 11 or 12 o’clock at night working on my stuff or somebody else’s stuff.”

The El Dorado News-Times reports that Davis’ passion for electronics started from when he would tinker with things around the house and his uncle Junior taught him everything he knows, he said.

“I took what he taught me and ran with it. I’m like him right now when he was a young guy,” Davis said. “The first thing I tinkered with was a TV, an old big-back TV. The capacitor, I didn’t know what it was at the time. It shocked me and put a big hole in my hand. That’s what really got me started . and from that point on, I’ve been into electronics ever since.”

El Dorado School District Science Chair Carolyn Smith said she met Davis after his employer was contacted to repair and clean microscopes at the high school.

“They sent Merari to the high school to look at our microscopes and give us an estimate on cleaning and repairing them,” she said. “As we made our way upstairs to where the microscopes were, we began to talk about him graduating from EHS in 2007. I asked him if he took advantage of the Promise and he was very quick to tell me he did . I think I may have shouted and jumped for joy.”

The engineer said he didn’t plan on attending college before the Promise was announced. Davis started his collegiate education at South Arkansas Community College before transferring to Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

He graduated from Louisiana Tech with a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering, he said. The electrical engineer made the Dean’s List at South Arkansas and Louisiana Tech, according to press releases from the institutions.

His prized possession is Mow Money, a lawnmower he found in the trash. Mow Money has a black and green paint job fitting for a derby car and is decked out with remote-controlled LED lights, speakers and a cellphone charger.

“I love this lawnmower,” Davis said. “At first, it wasn’t running so I had to rebuild the carburetor, fix the mowing deck so it could cut grass . When I first got it, the paint was all messed up. I said, ‘Let me see if the paint will come out.’ That’s the first thing I did. I got a video of it. I buffed it with a buffer, the paint started shining.”

To answer the neighborhood’s question of Mow Money’s mowing ability he said, “It still cuts grass . Yes, it still works.” During the customization process, he was excited to see he had space to install speakers and lights.

“After that, I put the lights on there . I bought two speakers, painted them green, cut the holes (and) installed them. It wasn’t loud enough, so I bought two more speakers, cut the holes, installed (them). It sounded it pretty good. I said, ‘I need some bass,’ so I bought a subwoofer, put it on there and that completed the package. I have a total of seven speakers on this lawnmower.”

Davis’ latest project is a party bus that’s loaded with LED lights, a Bluetooth sound system and large flat screen that plays music videos that are all remote-controlled.

“It was an old handicap bus. Again, I started with the lights. The lights always make it live. Then comes the speakers and the TV. I got some more stuff that I’m doing to it. It’s the party machine I’m going to take to the tailgates and whatnot.”

A detail worth noting is a custom logo for The Vegas Lot, a parking area near the West Hillsboro-North West intersection that’s being revitalized by Davis and his business partner AJ Meeks.

Meeks said, “I want people to know that this is more than just a parking lot. Future plans consist of making it an area friendly to local events such as garage sales, vending and family gatherings. Proceeds from this event will be invested into the property to make it vibrant again.”

The lot is also lined with his signature LED lights.

“I love lights. That’s my thing,” Davis said.

Though it’s a work in progress, the bus was used to transport visitors from The Vegas Lot to the Murphy Arts District during its grand opening, he said.

When he’s not at work, the shop or the lot, he likes to travel when he has time. He also hopes to enter Mow Money into the El Dorado Christmas Parade this year, Davis said.

“I told him that his story needed to be told and our students needed to hear this. I said, ‘You are right down the road, literally, and you must come and tell our students your story,” Smith said. “To my knowledge, this has not happened yet, but we will get him to come and tell his story to our students.”


Information from: El Dorado News-Times,