I did a science fair project in high school, but I put so little effort into it that I'm now embarrassed thinking back on it. The topic I chose was "The Electrolysis of Water." I basically just had some electrodes splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

David Ecklein, however, had an extraordinary high school science fair project. Back in 1959, he built a computer, which he named EMAG-3, that was capable of playing "an interesting and reasonable game" of checkers. It was made from 3200 vacuum tubes and three miles of wiring. It stood 15 feet tall.

On his website, he notes that he designed it to fit the science fair floor space requirements, knowing that the regulations had omitted to mention anything about how high a project could be. Height restrictions were introduced the following year.

More info: MIT Museum

Great Falls Tribune - Apr 17, 1959

     Posted By: Alex - Tue Sep 13, 2022
     Category: School | Technology | Computers | 1950s

The thing now fits on a small part of the chip in your phone as a general purpose computer. However, at the time it would be nice for heating the house.
Posted by KDP on 09/13/22 at 10:16 AM
The MIT Museum website says it's now in the Boston Museum of Science. I've been there many times and I've never seen it there, so I suspect it's in storage.
Posted by ges on 09/13/22 at 09:09 PM
Must have taken forever to wire that thing up. Oh, he wasn't dating, so he had lots of time? Go figure.

Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 09/14/22 at 08:47 AM
Good on him! You can do noughts-and-crosses in a bagful of matchboxes, but this is another level. (My own project was on the vitamin C contents of various brands of orange juice. We confirmed the stereotype.)
Posted by Richard Bos on 09/18/22 at 08:36 AM
Time to attempt to one-up? My high school science project was a device that used sound waves to separate granular solids of different densities. Won me the "Honorable Mention." (Needed a better presentation for a higher prize.)

Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 09/18/22 at 09:26 AM
I think I probably sort of heard of this, or something similar, at the time. My introduction to computers was a 3D Tic Tac Toe program run on an IBM 360. I was in high school and the computer was at a university more than an hour away, so my contact was infrequent and informal, but I did get into a discussion of building a standalone game player. Any hope I had to create one (my hobby was electronics) disappeared quickly when someone explained that nearly every card for the program (which filled a cart) would require a logic circuit of two or three transistors. I could cadge a few signal transistors here and there, and I had my lunch money to spend, but that wouldn't cover 0.01% of what was needed.
Posted by Phideaux on 09/18/22 at 10:37 AM

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