When I was 12 I think I could just about handle working a Bunsen burner in science classes, but one schoolboy has put me to shame by building a working nuclear reactor in his family’s spare room.
I didn’t even know what a nuclear reactor was at that age. I still don’t, to be honest.
14-year-old Jackson Oswalt, from Memphis, is believed to be the youngest person to ever build a functioning nuclear reactor after he first achieved the impressive accomplishment at just 12 years old.
Jackson built his reactor using various pieces of equipment, including customised vacuums, pumps and chambers, bought by his parents on eBay. In total, the machine cost the young boy’s family around $10,000 (£7,700).
As there isn’t a ‘How To Build A Nuclear Reactor For Dummies’ book available on the market, the smart schoolboy learned how to build the reactor by reading information online, and relying on the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, an online forum for amateur physicists, to ensure he was moving in the right direction.
After a year and a half of work, just hours before his 13th birthday, Jackson completed his creation on January 19, 2018.
Speaking to Fox News about how he came to build the complicated machine, he said:
I started searching for [nuclear] things on the internet, because that’s what interests me.
The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors.
After that, I assembled a list of parts I needed. [I] got those parts off eBay primarily and then often times the parts that I managed to scrounge off of eBay weren’t exactly what I needed.
So, I’d have to modify them to be able to do what I needed to do for my project.
The nuclear reactor is capable of smashing atoms together through force in a hot plasma centre that releases a burst of fusion energy. A similar process is what powers the sun.
Like many of us, Jackson’s parents actually had very little idea about what their son’s project entailed, but his father Chris ensured no harm would come to the 12-year-old by having experts speak to him about the dangers involved.
The proud father told Fox News about how impressed he was with his son’s achievement:
Being a parent of someone that was as driven as he was for 12 months was really impressive to see.
I mean it was everyday grinding; everyday learning something different; everyday failing and watching him work through all those things.
Jackson’s success was verified by Richard Hull, a verifier with the research consortium and an administrator for its website Fusor.net.
I’m sure Jackson will go on to do a lot of great things!
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.