Build Your Own Laser Spectrograph

The news is awash about a 17 year old girl who won a $100,000 scholarship for her spectrograph, but nobody actually linked to information about the thing. After some digging around, I located [Mary]’s web site. It’s a work in progress, but I found an early version of her spectrograph build. The picture shows her project with a spectrograph head made for a meade telescope. Hopefully she’ll get documentation of her spectrograph head up soon. This is one of the better uses I’ve seen for a 5mw green laser.

I forgot to mention her sweet dobsonian telescope build. Very nice work.

23 thoughts on “Build Your Own Laser Spectrograph

  1. A common spectrograph is relatively simple to build with a reflective or transmissive diffraction grating, a slit, and a camera.

    But understanding and building a Raman spectrograph system in high-school? That’s bloody impressive.

    Her system design isn’t that different from $100K systems I used in college.

  2. I don’t know how impressed I am, she took a well known design (frigging raman spectrograph…) and a bunch of cheap components and made a $100k machine for $1k. If you read the data analysis she notes that the exact values for the lines were almost impossible to determine because she used a multimode laser, and the only fix for that is to spend ~$20k for a decent single-mode frequency locked laser (take the quite dated but still quite cool Lightwave Electronics 142 for example). So you managed a proof of concept machine for .1% of the cost of a real one, but it is not like you made some technological breaktrhough like cnn made it sound like.

    But on the other hand, there is just something about a teenage girl that can use a lathe… And likes lasers… And knows what a raman spectrograph is… And is my age… Yup, she deserved that money :p

  3. Derrrr….i dunno how empressed i yam wit that gurl and her spektro annaliser gizmo whut she lernd abot in them thar buks shes been a readin….

    STUPID IDIOT!!! I know how impressed I AM—I seem to remember everybody in america being impressed with her last night on the national news..Not to mention Bill Gates, CNN and EVERY other major media source..Survey says? Survey says youre a stupid SOB, bubba! Survey also says she is one smart young lady……which is why I guess her name is listed on here and yours is not? why she is the headline on every newspaper this morning and you are not? why SHE is the proud winner of $100 grand and YOU ARE NOT!!!

    Mary…..It you are reading this (like I am just so sure youve got time to read HACKADAY with everything going on in your world right now….) dont you even listen to that last stupid person or anything they had to say….or anyone else who sounds anything even remotely like it. Your spectrograph was by far one of the coolest HACKS ive seen on this site (oh yes she hacked that thing together like most of you wannabes wish you could—-you lame posers with your lighted bluetooth bridge could learn a thing or two from this little girl!!!) and I, for one, am looking forward to future projects and contributions that Mary has to offer the world. Im sure we have not seen the last of her…GOOD JOB MARY!

    and GOOD JOB hackaday. way to spot a good hack when you see it and RECOGNIZE it for what it is.

    I speak for the thinking American public when I say,,,,I AM IMPRESSED MARY!

  4. amen, mr. jones.

    kids around the country should be looking mary’s direction and thinking, “crap. i should put down the xbox controller and gets me some learnin’.”

    i know almost nothing about anything that was in any of the text on her site: telescope theory, implementation, etc., but i am an artist and one thing that caught my attention was the caption for the following image from her site:

    “Mary wanted to stain the telescope, but John didn’t want to. The secondary has Mary’s aesthetic.” you know what, that’s sweet. she took the time to do this sweet project *and* to make it look nice.

    congrats, mary.

  5. And why is the message system converting all capital letters to lowercase? It’s making every message look juvenile. I wonder what it’ll do to IBM or Microsoft(R)? (and you don’t want to mess up their trademarks)

  6. Whoa! This girl was at ISEF (international science & engineering fair) with this device last year and had the booth next to me! Good job Mary!

    I don’t remember what she won at ISEF, but I remember it being a good amount of stuff.

  7. Mr. Jones, you are a perfect example of my point. Sure, she is a very talented girl, and knows how to write a website, and has many skills that are had by very few teenagers, but what she has done is not any more technically challenging than many projects I have seen done (or even done myself).

    But, when you read CNN it is like what she did is orders of magnitude better than what the rest of hobbyists have done. And then people read that, and suddenly this hobbyist is famous, for a project not any more advanced than a lot of projects I have seen come out of teenagers (weather they be a work of literature, a painting/sculpture, a computer program, a electrical device, or something completely different…)

    I mean, the mechanical work was trivial. Several of my friends (and myself if I used my schools tools) could have easily done the machining. The alignment would take some time, but I have managed to get worse cases working (even try aligning a HeNe? 1/8 of a turn on a 100tpi screw will go from full to no power). The general concept of a ramen spectrograph’s is well published, and when compared to most optical devices is actually quite trivial. I have seen holography setups more complex than her design. So really, what puts the project above even a decent case mod is the effort that went into designing it. It takes a lot of reading (and you can’t find these books in your local library) and a considerable amount of head scratching to make a project like this from scratch.

    I speak from experience, as I am building a large dpss fd yag laser, which is currently in the collecting parts phase. I have some renders of the design up at I apologise if it is slow, hosting out my home cable line.

    I am not saying that her project is subpar (it is certainly one of the more advanced projects I have seen on HAD), in fact it is quite impressive for a teen, however the amount of hype it is given by the media (and many other people that don’t know what they are talking about) is way more than it deserves.

  8. I’m not too impressed considering the other contestants entries.

    Was it a good project? Hell yea! It was pretty cool, and deserving to be on HAD, but should it have beat out the kid that showed that any rectifiable closed curve can be deformed via an expansive motion to form a convex set?
    In my opinion? no way.

  9. it IS an order of magnitude better than every one else…to the tune of $100,000 you numbskull. okay, youre right…she did not just accomplish world peace or a cure for cancer…..but i dont see you winning any national contests for kids….

    are you a kid mr no name? mr dot dot dot…..tell me? are you a 17 year old girl? no you’re not….but a 17 year old sweet innocent little girl just paddled you, smoked everyone elses ass, and then handed you all back your individual asses in a wet paper bag for your inspection! she tied the long hair on your butt to the short hair on your toes and kicked you backwards down the street and you dont like it too much….

    I understand. nobody likes getting beaten by a little girl.

    but this time we all were pummelled by mary and her spectrascope…..and the NSF and CNN and USA agreed.

    Survey says? survey says nobody gives a flying rats arse what you think, bubba!


  10. I turned 17 last week. I am male. But what kind of sexist [fill in your own choice words] changes their criteria for a project depending on the makers sex? Women have been fighting for equality for ages, is this any different?

    Does the fact that she is a girl make my GPS tracking system (and associated rockets) any less of an achievement than her telescope?

    Or my 50kv 1kw power supply any less impressive than her spectrometer?

    And since I am a guy my tesla coils are little more than playthings when her spectrometers are the best thing in the entire teenage world?

    I will admit, she 100% pwns me in the arts… The best song I have recorded is that of a 1000n/s rocket motor going off, and the best picture I have taken is of the wet side of mt. Whitney (looking down from the 14,491′ summit that I climbed)

  11. Ya know what Mr Dot Dot Dot? youre right… hell with mary and her stupid accomplishments!!! YOU are obviously so much more intelligent than she is; sitting here whining (yes, whining) about how she got recognized and you didnt when you have obviously hacked such awesome things together….your accomplishments really make mary and her accomplishments pale by comparison. those judges were obviously blinded by the fact that she has a uterus that they tossed your achievements aside in favor of hers because of her ability to some day bear children—-yeah mary and her stupid spectrograph are nothing compared to your tesla coil, and the sexist injustice that was thrust upon you is more than the world can bear!

    Boo Hoo….poor Mr Dot Dot Dot—-didnt get on the evening news and a 100,000 dollar scholarship when that aweful wretched little girl with her stupid volcano-like science project is nothing compared to Mr Dot Dot Dot and his GPS tracking system and his power supply!! we should all just sit down right now and have a BIG pity party just for you mr dot dot dot!

    the invisible mans heart pumps peanut butter for you….the world revolves on its axis according to where you are located, and mary and her award winning nationally recognized spectrograph are so beneath what you are capable of that we should all just sit down and write a letter right now to congress about the horrible injustices you have been subjected to because of that wretched, wretched girl and her stupid achievements that you obviously deserve so much more than she does.

    I think i will write a letter to my senator right now, and tell him how you have so much more to offer the world of science than Mary does. im gonna send him links to your tesla coil and power supply too, since those are such way cool projects and so scientifically implausible yet you, in your greatness, make the implausible possible and we, the rest of the world, are rushing right now to your home page to sign your guestbook and give you the kudos you so obviously deserve!
    i dont know why i didnt see your genius before—i suppose i, too, was so blinded by mary and her uterus that i could not conceive even the most elementary understanding of your greatness.

    thanks for setting me straight and putting me in my place!

    I sure am glad im not getting sucked into that whole mary lie any more! from now on youre the man!

  12. It is not without truth what … wrote. He is right that the sex of the spectrometer girl probably made it easier for her to win. I find his projects equal in difficulty as hers. Respect to Mary, she really deserves it, and what she did is nothing less then great, but there is one important point that people forget. She had access to parts other people don’t have! Have you all read the lines saying that she got the filters and the dichroic from Omega Optical? Guess what, for our lab i just received filters and dichroics from them, the dichroic was 400 bucks! Without that donation she would have been unable to do the project! And I don’t doubt, that other kids could have done a similar project if they had had the support from a company giving them parts for a thousand dollars. In cheer for Mary don’t forget all the other great minds!

  13. The challenge here is to build a Raman Spectrometer that actually works. I work with 140 000k stuff and the idea of being able to make it .1% of its initial price is very tasty. Hence all the fuss… Good job!

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