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things as far back as I can remember,” he says. “In high school, I got a used server and was setting up websites. But coming to college, you don’t have a workspace, and the Garage is a really cool opportunity to have one.” The Garage has also housed a sustainability class, taught with collaborators Giri Venkataramanan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Erica Halverson, associate professor of education. Projects included a computercontrolled countertop hydroponic greenhouse that could grow lettuce in a couple of weeks, and a gray-water recycling system to purify shower water and send it to the toilet (after it was sterile enough for a dog to drink). As a ringmaster of this undergraduate creativity, Carlsmith relishes his role as brainstormer. Could the swarm of X-rays released when Scotch tape is pulled off a surface in a vacuum allow a soldier to X-ray a wound in the field? Whether the idea would work is secondary, Carlsmith explains. “Working on these ideas, a physics student could learn about X-rays and vacuum

pumps, and simultaneously about the market and entrepreneurship. Maybe he or she could run with it, or maybe it’s just something to try out as an undergrad.” Visualizing and creating a radical high-tech product can change a student’s life, Carlsmith says. “They begin to realize, ‘I am actually a real person with my own unique talents.’ Many past students from the Garage are flying. They will graduate and do great things.” And then Carlsmith returns to what he does best: spinning a recent advance in technology into fun, achievable projects for motivated undergrads. “Google wants to give Wi-Fi access to everybody, based on balloons. We’ve already launched two high-altitude balloons, looking for cosmic rays using smartphones … There are a lot of applications. Two years ago, scientists found bacteria living in the upper atmosphere. Where are they coming from? You could get into all kinds of cool science.”

Sophomore Brett Paris and junior Jonah Pelfrey work on a prototype sensor for the Badger Hyperloop project. In spring 2016, the UWMadison team won third place overall in a worldwide competition to design a pod for the futuristic mass transit concept proposed by SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk. (Photo by Sarah Morton)

To follow the adventures of the Badgerloop students, check out BadgerLoopTeam or @badger_loop on Twitter.


— Story by David Tenenbaum


L&S Annual Review, 2015-16  

The Annual Review for the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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