While most 16-year-olds play Minesweeper on the computer to cure boredom, UNM student Rishin Behl designed a device to aid in the real-world navigation of minefields.
As a result, Behl received a full scholarship funded by UNM and Intel two years ago and began attending UNM at age 17.
An international student from India, Behl was inspired to design the device after playing with a toy laser in his bedroom.
“It started with a pocket laser,” he said. “When an aircraft flew by I could see the pattern on the wall â€¦ and the window was shaking a little bit.”
He said he was already working on a magnetic levitation generator, and using these two ideas, he made a motion sensor.
It took six months to make the final prototype of his magnetic laser motion sensor, made entirely out of household items. After exploring a few applications of the device, he found that when his sensor is put into a mine, it will be selective as to when it explodes.
“You can program it in such a way that it doesn’t explode when a U.S. tank goes over it because it has its own vibration, but when a Soviet 1990 tank goes over it, the mine does explode,” Behl said.
Behl initially entered the sensor into his high school science fair and eventually won the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college science competition, in 2007.
Behl said he was surprised with his success.
The ISEF was held at the Albuquerque Convention Center, where Behl met interesting people while competing on a global scale. Michele Glidden, director of Science Education Programs at the Society for Science and the Public, said the ISEF is also a cultural learning experience.
“The ISEF is about bringing different people around the world to celebrate science,” Glidden said. “Our organization is interested in the next generation of science-minded citizens.”
UNM has been a sponsor of the ISEF since 1959.
Karen Kinsman, director for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Outreach Programs, said she hopes that research challenges will encourage students to get passionate about science.
“Stay excited, stay interested, and learn everything you can,” Kinsman said, “We want to attract the next generation of great scientists, engineers, medical students and teachers.”
Behl returns to UNM this fall as a junior. He plans to graduate with a major in nuclear engineering and a minor in mathematics. He works at the UNM Hospital in the nuclear medicine department.
In his free time, Behl is working on a new biomedical sensor design.
Behl said he misses his parents, but the U.S. has broadened his ambitions.
“I have seen that opportunities are everywhere â€¦ now I want the world,” he said.