Photos: Texting From 1,000 Feet Underground

  • 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.
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    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.
    All photos by Brad Horn/Photos by Brad Horn
  • 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.
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    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.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • 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.
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    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.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • 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.
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    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.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • The cavers travel through "Left Hand Tunnel" on their way to the test location, Lake of the Clouds. The cave is off-limits to all but those conducting scientific research.
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    The cavers travel through "Left Hand Tunnel" on their way to the test location, Lake of the Clouds. The cave is off-limits to all but those conducting scientific research.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • 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.
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    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.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • The team is seen with the assembled radio at Lake of Clouds, 946 feet below the surface of the Earth. During the test, a surface team was located directly above their location.
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    The team is seen with the assembled radio at Lake of Clouds, 946 feet below the surface of the Earth. During the test, a surface team was located directly above their location.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • Kendrick synchronizes his watch with his father's. They followed a detailed and precise protocol in order to calibrate the two devices before initiating text communication.
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    Kendrick synchronizes his watch with his father's. They followed a detailed and precise protocol in order to calibrate the two devices before initiating text communication.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • The word "happy" flickers onto the screen. Following a series of scripted messages, the teams engaged in a "free-chat" session discussing both the operation of the radio and what to have for dinner.
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    The word "happy" flickers onto the screen. Following a series of scripted messages, the teams engaged in a "free-chat" session discussing both the operation of the radio and what to have for dinner.
    Photos by Brad Horn
  • Kendrick stands in the Lake of the Clouds after testing his invention. He and the team of cavers executed the deepest known digital communication ever to take place in the United States.
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    Kendrick stands in the Lake of the Clouds after testing his invention. He and the team of cavers executed the deepest known digital communication ever to take place in the United States.
    Photos by Brad Horn

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