Today, I was pondering about who I want to be in the future, and who I am now as a person. I decided upon the term ‘innovator’.
I build things. I always have; throughout elementary school, throughout middle school, throughout high school and throughout this year. By building things, asking questions, and inventing solutions to all the problems I’ve made for myself, I’ve learned a bit more about the world than the average person. Often that lands me into precarious situations, but when it doesn’t, it’s a blessing.
It’s hard for me to describe who I am. Maybe the best way to do that is to describe what I do, for fun, and for other causes.
I am an engineer
Back in middle school, when high-level programming began to become a bore I decided I want to figure out how computers worked at their low level. Unfortunately computer architecture wasn’t a class in the NYS curriculum, so I had to learn it the hard way; by mapping gates and their truth tables during Spanish class.
Eventually I had something that looked like it would work, but with no money to make such a device the project was abandoned. Some time ago though, I came across a cheap lot of 1000 relays at a surplus store and had a mildly devious idea.
In no small part due to the incredible amount of soldering it takes to put something like this together, it’s not fully completed yet; though it has partly taken shape.
It’ll be a computer in time though, and eventually I intend to make it play tic-tac-toe. With relays! Coils of wire playing a game against a human.
Science is awesome.
If you’re interested, the design is;
- A Harvard memory architecture with a 4 bit memory space;
0×0 – 0×3 —— 4 math registers
0×4 ————- PC register
0×5 ————- 3-bit stack
0×6 & 0×7 —– I/O bus
0×8 – 0xF —— 8 bytes of general purpose RAM
[Null Address] – Copy register
- An intended program space of 256 bytes with out-of-address, ALU initiated subroutines [for peasant’s multiplication and such]. I call it 8.5 bits.
- Clock speed; a whole 5 hertz.
- Power Consumption; Probably something like 500 watts. As green as it gets.
Why am I building this?
Because it’s fun. It’s a challenge that not many would dare to take on, and it’ll be something to cherish when it is done.
Computer science is the science of computing. It’s the discovery of how to build computing machines, be they mechanical, electromechanical, electronic or even quantum. It’s the science of combining mathematics with information, and it’s something I love.
I am an entrepreneur
About the age of 11, I discovered that smoke alarms contain a small amount of Americium-241. Little did I know at the time what sort of path I it was going to take me down, but eventually it led me to building a few x-ray machines. Fast forward a few years and now I’m attempting to fit a 3,000 watt x-ray machine into a portable, battery powered package.
In the United States, we’re used to receiving quality medical care. Though some may beg to differ, the truth is that in 99% of cases a broken leg will be diagnosed, treated and realigned within a few hours. In fact, this is true of most western worlds; people can and often will be promptly treated, despite what the public insurance policies may be.
But this isn’t true everywhere. In certain parts of the world where quality electricity is scarce, access to radiography isn’t something that’s easily obtainable. Since most diagnostic x-ray machines are large, inefficient devices that require a 50 Amp AC line, a room to house their transformer and a forklift to move; not really something that you’d ever find in the middle of mexico.
The machines currently considered ‘portable’ still weigh several hundred pounds and are about as mobile as a washing machine on castor wheels; not really something that anyone would be able to take during an emergency response. Ones light enough to carry aren’t powerful enough to do much of anything with, so for the most part, radiography is a rare thing anywhere but a well-funded, first world clinic. Especially so when the entry-level machines cost $18,000.
So what am I doing about this?
I’m building an x-ray machine, one which will allow quality radiography to be performed anywhere; not just in specialized clinics where a three phase AC line has to be run. It’s important because damage can be diagnosed after natural disasters in makeshift hospitals, or regularly in rural clinics where the nearest hospital is 20 miles away. I’m building this because I’m able to make it cheap; affordable to those who would need one.
I’m building it also, to be an entrepreneur.
At http://adammunich.com/dropbox/xray.pdf there lies a paper detailing the prototype machine I built in high school. Machine number 2 is currently in the works, though progress has almost ground to a halt because of red tape. Unless you can find a professor knowledgeable enough to become an adviser for your project, nothing can progress. Unfortunately high-voltage power supply design isn’t something many specialize in, so for this, I’m kind of stuck.
Nonetheless, I have here a few photos of what I have gotten done.
This is the high voltage transformer I intend to use.
It wasn’t easy to design one which would work in this situation; parasitic capacitance at 20kV/110kHz is a very, very mean thing. In fact, you can see all the rejects in the background behind my big capacitor bank.
The transformer is wound on a TSC-102-57-0000 7070 material ferrite core, running at about 50 V/turn at the B value I’ve chosen. With a 10 mil air gap it’s resonant at 82kHz, and in theory should run fine at 110kHz, which is nice since I don’t have to worry so much about resonant rise and ringing.
I intend to use a full bridge of mosfets; one half phase-shifted in PID response to the output voltage.
This is what the high voltage assembly should look like when completed, or at least the plastic bits of it. In essence it’s an oil tank that has to house the voltage multiplier, the transformer, feedback network and a few other components.
It’s designed to hold about a liter of Cargill mineral oil, and has a nice neoprene expansion chamber to compensate for warm oil. There’s enough clearances in there that there shouldn’t be any issues with dielectric breakdown, but something like that can only be certainly proven in a real life test.
I’ve tried and failed to find a professor here who’s knowledgeable enough in these subjects to be an advisor for this project, much less help with the design. Because of the way things work here, that means I’m on my own. Despite the lack of support and funds though, there has been some physical progress.
Thankfully, companies can be very generous if you bug them enough. Capacitor, ferrite core and diode companies, at the very least.
…an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to admit failure
It is a website for hackers and makers to share their projects online; a social network, of sorts for everything “make”. When you sign up, you get a customizable blog and a website on which you can share all of your projects with the world.
Almost like pinterest mixed with instructables mixed with tumblr.
So where is it now?
Sadly, I couldn’t get anyone to use it. Not because my code was broken; I spent the better part of my senior year in high school making it perfect. Unhackable, beautiful, fast and extremely easy to use. 60,000 lines of code, written from absolutely nothing, in notepad.
No, it failed because I didn’t have enough help to launch it properly. I had no means of promotion, no means of transportation, and no team to help me maintain the site when I ran a beta test. And so, it died.
But did keep the source.
I really want to launch the site again, but to do so I’m going to need the support of a community interested enough to see it survive. Sadly I haven’t found that community yet. I offered it to the innovation center, but they already have a site based on a similar concept and aren’t willing to abandon it for someone’s home-grown system.
…more than once
Makur.org was not my first web startup. It was one of many.
My first one was attempted during my sophomore of high school. It was “junkbox.org”.
The goal of the junkbox was to create an internet hamfest; a marketplace for all of the surplus electronic parts. Capacitors, inductors, vacuum tubes, military equipment, oscilloscopes; an online version of your local electronics junk shop.
Nobody used that either. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked though, who, after all would trust a 15 year old kid to maintain their marketplace?
But not all is a loss. Through these failures and many more I haven’t told about, I learned some valuable lessons about startups; the most important one being the realization that they can’t be done alone.
I’m a geek, and I’m proud of it.
One week later I was scolded for it and it was taken down, after which, housing operations gave me a lengthy talk about ‘what is appropriate’. Not really what I expected from a technology school.
Last month, somebody stole my bicycle, so I built this Segway to replace it.
Under the recommendation of Jon and Carl, I also wrote a paper about it and am going to apply for a grant, to build a better version and ideally, have a kit up on kickstarter by summer.
And I am a physicist
This is my linear beam klystron.
I intend to turn it into a doppler radar system in order to teach myself microwave theory. It’s capable of 3,000W of C-Band RF, which should be enough to detect things for almost 200 miles.
Unforuntately it also needs an 8kV, 1A plate transformer, which I have still yet to find.
This is my neutron detector (‘nuclear bomb detector’), which I use for spectroscopy and, coupled with my photomultiplier array, radio astronomy. It has 27 helium-3 proportional counting tubes in it, and is probably the most sensitive than any other radiation detector on campus.
I love particle physics, and it’s something I really would like to learn more about.
This is my ND:YAG laser. It’s pumped by some 50W of 808nm light, produced by some rather sexy diode arrays. This was also rescued from the trash and repaired. Sadly, it’s neither an L or a Z fold cavity so I can’t put in a KTP oven to generate green light.
I do intend to add a q-switch though, and couple it to an optical fiber, so that I may build a machine to engrave metal. Laser physics, specifically nonlinear optics is something I’d also like to learn more about.
I love the physical sciences, and I’ve been building these kinds of things for as long as I can remember. I’d love to share the experience with people here at RIT, but sadly, most other student don’t really seem to care.