University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Research Spotlight

Nicola Tesla Patent Producers

Mac Cameron
Mac Cameron with a Tesla coil
Alex Schumann

Mac Cameron, a junior in the School of Physics and Astronomy, is the founder of the student group, the Nicola Tesla Patent Producers (NTP^2). Cameron started the group in the fall of 2010 after being fascinated with Nicola Tesla’s unproduced patents, some of which are ground-breaking even today. Inspired by the idea that these old unproduced inventions could have an impact on the world today, he decided to gather up the smartest people he knew to produce some of the patents.

“One of the reasons I joined physics, is that I love what we can do with it. We can fuse atoms together, travel to moon, and launch projectiles at over 9 miles per second. The labs that we do in the Physics courses are really cool and practical, and you learn really fast when you’re trusted to build and conduct your own experiment.” Cameron took that experience outside the classroom and into a student group.
After building some Tesla Coils, and a near space balloon to take pictures of the Earth’s curvature, the group began to focus on bringing their own inventions to fruition. “We are now a project-based, student-led, student funded innovation workshop,” Cameron says. “Students here are producing results.”
One such result was the Aurora Digitalis light show, performed before Christmas on campus for more than 500 spectators. The project was enough of a success that the group received funding from the University to do the display for three more years.
Cameron says the group has many other projects involving chemistry and physics concepts but points to four large ones that take the majority of the group’s focus. Aside from Aurora Digitalis, they are building a linear accelerator, sometimes known as a “rail gun,” an electromagnetic device that will propel an object at fast speeds. They are also working on an indoor snow machine, which was the idea of one of the group’s students. Cameron explains that the idea to make it like a fountain that starts out as snow and falls to rain. The group is also building its own stereo, to understand circuitry, and sub woofers.
In the future, NTP^2 plans to build a small nuclear fusion reactor, some organic solar cells to charge batteries, and a device that can help the blind see using pressure sensors (X-box technology) or help people see behind them 360 degrees.
NTP^2 has members from diverse academic backgrounds around the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts. They are currently in the process of becoming an official University group adopted by the Physics department, by applying for Campus Life Status. They recently won two awards, The College of Science and Engineering Rookie Group of the Year and Best Event at the CSE group awards. “Our mailing list has over 250 people and every week 25-35 show up for meetings on Fridays from 5:15 - 8:00 p.m.” The group has raised over $45,000 to fund projects and lab space next year.
Cameron, now a junior, is trying to make sure that the group stays around after he graduates. His own plans include combining physics classes and business classes to become a scientific entrepreneur. If the success of his invention, NTP^2 is any indication, Cameron has a bright future ahead of him.