Some kids spend their time on social media, other kids spend their time playing video games. When it comes to 14-year-old Jackson Oswalt, his time is spent in a laboratory working on a nuclear fusion reactor.
The Memphis teen finished his reactor and achieved fusion at the age of 13. He’s regarded by experts as the youngest in America – maybe even the world – to accomplish it. Jackson built a steel machine made up of vacuums, pumps and chambers that is capable of smashing atoms together through force in a smoking hot plasma center that releases a burst of fusion energy. If you’ve ever wondered how the sun and other stars are powered, the process within Jackson’s nuclear fusion reactor is comparable.
He began working on the fusion reactor at 12 years old, after concluding that he didn’t want to dedicate his leisure time solely to playing games like Fortnite. He began scouring the Internet for nuclear-related things because that’s what he says held his interest. Yes — at 12 years old.
During his research, Jackson came across Taylor Wilson, who in 2008 at 14 years old garnered international recognition as the youngest person to achieve fusion after building a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents’ garage in Texarkana, Ark.
Jackson, like any 12-year-old would, thought he could at least try to beat the record set by Wilson. From there he got to work.
“The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors,” explained the mild-mannered teen. “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.”
Building the nuclear fusion reactor was no game for Jackson. He converted an old playroom in his Memphis home into a functioning lab. With the financial support of his parents – he spent between $8,000 and $10,000 over the course of a year collecting the parts he needed to build his nuclear fusion reactor – that was apparently the easy part.