Monday, March 12, 2012

Romanian teen launches Lego shuttle into space

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My confidence in younger generations of geeks increases tenfold when I see stories like this. Depicted above is the brainchild of Oaida Raul, a Romanian teen who has a deep love and passion for space flight and the technology that goes with it. After reading about other people his age around the globe that have sent Lego models into space, Raul decided that it was time to act and create something himself.

A huge fan of the American Space Shuttle program and saddened to see it end, he came up with a plan to build and launch a Lego replica of the famous shuttle into the upper atmosphere. Not having tremendous resources, he came to the conclusion that he would need to find an investor of some sort to help make his dream a reality. Unlike most teens that go ask their parents for money, Raul hit the Internet, PM’d Steve Sammartino, a micro-startup expert and venture capitalist, and managed to get his Skype user name.


Raul immediately cold-called Sammartino in Australia, and actually got through. After introducing himself, Raul launched into a passionate presentation of his idea, communicating his deep commitment to making it happen if he could find the right business partner. Sammartino was so impressed that he agreed to fund the project on the spot, and the two began work to make it happen.

With Sammartino handling the business planning and purchasing, Raul was able to concentrate on building the launch vehicle and assembling the necessary equipment. Like the others that sent up models before him, Raul decided to use a large weather balloon that would carry both the Lego model and a Styrofoam box containing camera and tracking equipment. When construction was complete, Raul set about working over his next hurdle, which was where to actually launch his project.

Romania has some pretty stiff rules against this kind of balloon experiment, so Raul began to look elsewhere in the EU to find a place where the regulations would be more lax. The entrepreneurial teen settled on travelling to Germany for the launch. It was the perfect setting since not only did his father work in the country, it would also offer him several windows of opportunity to send his model skyward.


After a few false starts, Raul and Sammartino were able to launch their joint venture, and capture some beautiful images as the shuttle ascended to 130,000 feet. As a result, Raul became an overnight celebrity in Romania, making the evening news and several print publications. Of course, he has gained Internet popularity as well.

Raul and Sammartino are already planning their next project together, which is said to be top secret. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

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