Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Robotic Ping Pong, a Kid Genius, and a Flying Dragon

A few of my recent articles in Popular Science:

1. Designers out in California build a robotic ping pong table...

2. A teen genius designs and constructs his own portable X-ray machine. This kid isn't just a brilliant geek. He's a great writer. We started communicating via email, and after a few exchanges I wondered if the notes were coming from an adult masquerading as a high school kid. Here's a snippet from his take-down of the education system:

"I was always told that colleges look for people who think outside of the box rather than the ones whose main accomplishment is solely ‘getting good grades’. To me this has always made logical sense; high scores on tests never seemed to be good measure of true smarts, but only the ability to remember certain facts for a short quantity of time. Some of my friends would always get straight As, but the minute you asked them how electricity or combustion engines worked they were dumbfounded.

"Rather than studying I focused my efforts on learning things that I could actually use, or things that I found interesting. Instead of  writing that English paper I researched gravitational time dilation and a black hole’s Schwarzschild radius, then cranked out a rather poor paper at 12 am. Over the following weeks I spent time learning all I could about string theory and quantum mechanics while others played video games. This continued throughout most of middle school."

Eventually we connected a few times on the phone, and I spoke with one of his teachers as well, to verify it all. He's really an incredible story. My little piece hardly does him justice. But check it out anyway...

3. An RC enthusiast crafts his own flying, fire-breathing dragon after watching How to Train Your Dragon with his grandkids.

There are more stories out there somewhere in print and Web land - alien life forms and laser guns and data centers - but that's it for now.

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