Sub-$1,000 spectrograph


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A lot of folks sent this in today, a 17 year old made a sub-$1,000 spectrograph. If anyone knows more about this and/or is in contact with Mary let us know!

A 17-year-old girl won a scholarship worth $100,000 for building an inexpensive yet accurate spectrograph that identifies the “fingerprints” of different molecules.

Mary Masterman, a senior at Westmoore High School in Oklahoma City, was named the winner Tuesday of the annual Intel Science Talent Search.

More than 1,700 high school seniors across the nation entered the contest, which is in its 66th year.

Spectrographs, which measure wave lengths, are used in research such as astronomy and medicine and in industry. For example, they can be used as a sensing device to look for explosives or drugs or to help determine how old an art work is through its pigments.

They can cost as much as $100,000, but Masterman’s invention — made of lenses, a laser, aluminum tubing and a camera — cost less than $1,000, Intel said.

Teen wins $100,000 science scholarship – – Link.

Intel Science Talent search – Link.

16 thoughts on “Sub-$1,000 spectrograph

  1. marymast says:

    Someone sent me a message on my facebook about this blog…which I thought was really awesome…so I got an account on this blog…

    I’m Mary. :) If anyone has questions about the spectrograph, feel free to ask…

  2. tomladams says:

    Is there a technical description available

  3. marymast says:

    I have a website on and I think there is some information there.

    The problem is that I haven’t updated the website in a long time and I believe a lot of the pages have stopped loading…so in the next few days I will try to get it up working better and certainly try to get better plans online

  4. Atharsia says:

    Welcome to Make Mary :)
    Really cool project! I can’t wait to build one and play with it.

    And congratulations on the scholarship! I wish I had gotten involved with something like that when I was in High School.

  5. jack765 says:

    Q: Did you file a PATENT for this design?

    The royalties before patent rus out, or before another similarly cost-effective design is invented, is probably worth more than the scholarship.

  6. marymast says:

    I did not file a patent…

    I am a little afraid that it might be too late too. Do you know how long after you talk about something publicly (i.e. present it at a science fair sort of thing) you have to apply for a patent? I have been working with my spectrograph a long time, more than a year…

  7. JimGage says:

    If I remember correctly you have one year to file after you make your research public. You may also want to find out if you can keep the prize and keep the rights to your research.

    Patents can be expensive and you’ll want to get a patent attorney involved. There are companies out there that will help out with the costs for a percentage of ownership. Patent laws are tricky so take any information that get off of the internet with a grain of salt.

  8. philliptorrone says:

    mary, look at limor fried’s work (and also email her) — you might want to consider putting it under a license where you of course own it, sell it, but others can improve it… “open source hardware” etc.

    it’s not advice or anything, just something to check out.

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