(With thanks to those who mentored me)
I haunted the UofM Duluth physics department as a kid, and after I won a blue ribbon in the regional science fair for a LASER I built, I bamboozled Prof. Donald E. Olson into letting me be an intern in his Atmospheric Electricity group at the age of 15.
Apollo 12 & 13
I missed quite a bit of my senior year of high school, doing many trips for the UofM Atmospheric Electricity research program as an intern. At the age of 17, I made several trips for the UofM to Cape Kennedy during Apollo 12 and 13 to launch instrumented balloons, because Prof. Olson had to teach and could not go. I was among the first to suggest to frightened NASA metrological officials what caused the Saturn V to be hit by lightning during launch which nearly caused an abort of the fully fueled rocket a few hundred feet off the pad. The “Field Mills” we installed at the Cape at that time were later adopted by NASA as one of the principal methods for lightning prediction, and newer commercial versions are still in use to this day to give a go/no-go for launch. Besides these adventures to KSC, I was asked to fly our instrumented ballon packages during the solar eclipse of March 1970 from Nantucket island, and also during a simulated nuclear explosion that was staged in Medicine Hat in July.
Computers & Networking
After seeing how important computers were for data acquisition at Cape Kennedy, helping move in a cool CDC 3200 computer at the UofM Duluth, and seeing the movie 2001, I became interested in computers as tools for science and telecommunication, and built a home made computer from surplus TTL chips.
I was enthusiastic about the AT&T Picturephone…. It helped shape my interest in computer networking as a tool for human collaboration, and view that the Internet should be a vehicle for it… details here.