It was a conversation between a father and a son that turned into a defining journey.
Egan Wedertz, then an eighth-grader at Princess Anne Middle School, was talking with his dad, Robert, about Navy planes. His father worked in naval aviation and was explaining how the mechanics of landing aircraft on a carrier.
“He was talking about how they land, and they have to have these hooks,” Wedertz explained. “So, I thought of an idea that they would use electromagnets to stop the planes.”
It was an idea Wedertz took a hold of and ran with – he began researching magnets, runway length, aircraft speeds and weights.
For those who know Wedertz, these “sparks” of interest are no surprise. In fact, his name, Egan, means “little fiery one” in Scottish.
“Egan is an amazing student in that he always comes prepared and with a passion to learn,” said Donna Irish, Egan’s eighth-grade science teacher. “He has a natural curiosity about the world that drives him in wanting to learn.”
It’s a curiosity Wedertz has manifested in to several award-winning outings in different competitions. He can even recall this love of mechanics back from his elementary school days when he made a paper mache volcano.
“It really interested me how all matter reacts in all different ways, and that fascinates me,” he said.
The more he learned about landing aircraft, he was again fascinated with how it could work. With the school science fair coming up, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out.
“I was just like, wow, this is a good idea, we should build an invention about it,” he said.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Wedertz entered his electromagnetic aircraft landing gear into the school’s fair, and his project came in second place.
But, he didn’t stop there.
Using the notes from his teachers on how he could improve the project, Wedertz fine-tuned his project and entered the Tidewater Science and Engineering Fair at Old Dominion University.
After all his research, trials and work, Wedertz still was not prepared for the response to his passion project.
Wedertz won honors from Prevalence and the American Helicopter Society and he placed first, overall, in engineering.
“I kept just getting up and getting up and getting up,” he said. “It amazed me.”
For Wedertz, the reward was not so much in the accolades, but in the journey of exploration.
“With science, you just have to find what you like to do,” he said. “(It’s) following what interests you and putting that to work…Science just interests me. I love coming up with new ideas.”
Now a freshman at Kellam High School, Wedertz said he will probably take the next couple of years off the science fair circuit, but still has his love of science.
As he continues on with his new ideas, he will not forget his recent project. Wedertz said he plans to continue tinkering with the electromagnetic gear – if for no other reason, than in homage of how it began.
“I just want to keep working on it,” he said. “My dad inspired all of this; it was really fun.”
Compass Keeper Q&A:
What’s your favorite movie? James Bond – Goldeneye
Who is your role model? Bruce Lee. He was just amazing.
What’s the last book you read? The Hobbit
What’s your favorite subject? Science
*Do you know someone who should be featured as a Compass Keeper? Send your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.