Alexander Kendrick, 16, of Los Alamos, N.M., won the 2009 International Science Fair for developing a low-frequency radio that can send text messages from deep underground. The device has many potential uses, including shaving hours off cave rescues, or transmitting data to scientists who are developing new antibiotics using cave bacteria.
Kendrick prepares to test the device at the upper range of its theoretical limit — nearly 1,000 feet underground. His father, Brian (back left) is a theoretical physicist at the Los Alamos National Lab and helped mentor his son on the project.
The key to the device is its computer — the small metal box at the top. Kendrick built the computer himself, writing an algorithm that is able to distinguish between digital data and analog noise inherent in low-wattage radio communication.
The team descends 750 feet into Carlsbad Caverns via an elevator. Park administrator Stan Allison (upper left) said the park will purchase Kendrick's radio for its rescue teams if a cave-hardy model can be constructed.
Kendrick has been caving since he was 7 and has been doing science fair projects related to caves since age 10. The radio he developed is in many ways more advanced than those developed by the mining industry.