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A 'nerd' shoots for the stars, and NASA comes knocking

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Toronto teen's intergalactic Canada takes top prize in NASA's Space Settlement Competition ...Read the full article

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  1. A C from Canada writes: Good for him! This guy is going places - I have no doubt he'll be a billionaire in the next 10 years. I do have something to say to the person who wrote the article: You say he's in grade 12, but then say he's finishing high school in three years. Huh? Are you trying to say he 'finished' high school in three years?

  2. Ken from calgary from Canada writes: Congrats to Mr. Yam! An amazing achievement for a young man!!

    Unfortunately or fortunately, the intergalactical Canada will not have any CAW members. ;o)
  3. Sharon Smith from Canada writes: A C, he's still in high school (he won't be finishing until June).
  4. Michael McCarthy from Toronto, writes: I know this is going to sound like a loser redneck statement but all I could think is 'why aren't we throwing money at people like this kid, instead of at welfare cases.'
    OK, let the hate mail begin...
    Congrats Mr Yam...I hope you go far and have no doubt that you will.
  5. Kenneth Law from Toronto, Canada writes: As an NSS alum, I am elated to hear of Mr. Yam's recent award. I wish him continued success in his studies and subsequent career.

    As a suggestion, I would strongly encourage him to consider UofT's engineering program over that of Waterloo's. Both universities possess fine engineering faculties but Toronto's program has a much stronger international reputation and an excellent aerospace program. (Please note that I'm an alum of both engineering schools.)
  6. Jeremy K from Burnaby, Canada writes: how about an intergalactic humanity free from nationalistic jingoism? an intergalactic Canada lol
  7. Andrew Daviel from vancouver, Canada writes: Incredibly professional job; well done!
    I would argue for a lower-tech construction more easily repaired in situ - moon rock for shielding instead of so much titanium/kevlar etc. - and the construction is really complicated given that it has to be done by robots or guys in spacesuits, but hey, the redundancy/expandability idea of the stacked rings is really neat.
  8. D Peters from Alberta, Canada writes: Didn't NASA start this way? Shipping imaginative CDN's to NASA. Oh wait that was the Avro....nevermind...brain fart there.
  9. George Daszkowski from Port Credit, Canada writes: A good long cheer is just what is needed!

    Now on to the next!

    I hope you have a website so we can follow your adventures!
  10. Chico Sanchez from Toronto, Canada writes: There is a very tiny market for aerospace engineers here in Canada and the pay is poor; you are better off collecting tickets for the TTC. After working in the 'space industry' for 6 years, I realized how wasteful it is to be spending money on useless space endeavors. There are bigger problems to solve here on Earth. Space Station is a perfect example of waste, along with NASAs new concept launch vehicle. There is no money in space. It's a waste. Get an engineering education, but go get a graduate finance degree afterward; the pay and reward is incomparable.
  11. L Chang from Ontario, Canada writes: Well done! Congratulation.
  12. Howard Young from Canada writes: All your bases are belong to us!
  13. Howard Young from Canada writes: ;-)
  14. Sask Resident from Regina, Canada writes: He knows what he is doing. Waterloo has a stronger math program than UofT, probably a good choice for advanced rather than grunt engineering. Better chance to get into MIT or other such university for a grad degree as well. Waterloo has a better reputation world wide than Toronto. Good luck young man.
  15. A C from Canada writes: Sharon Smith from Canada - You didn't understand what I meant. I know he's finishing in June because it says that in the article. The article says he's 'finishing in three years' which is not true. He's clearly finishing in a month.
  16. John Q Public from Oakville, Canada writes: A lot of hard work paid off. Very satisfying. Congrats. I would choose Waterloo ; thats my advice if you want to meet a pile of intelligent 'geeky' people ... but I'm a bit biased as an UW Alumini. The Co-op program is very important also to see the real world and for idea generation. They even pay you !!!
    GL
  17. Jack Rip from Canada writes: Chico Sanchez from Toronto, Canada writes:'There is no money in space. It's a waste. Get an engineering education, but go get a graduate finance degree afterward; the pay and reward is incomparable.'

    Yeah, why push paper at a bank when you could be changing the world instead. I would say this young man has his priorities right.

    A C from Canada writes:'The article says he's 'finishing in three years' which is not true. ' I think it means that he completed high school in 3 years.
  18. Edmond Dusablon from United States writes: Darren In TO from Canada wrote: 'Congrats And 'nana nana nana' to the usual racist haters that come to these boards to attack any non-wasp canadian.'

    Stereotypes save time, eh Darren? Oh, and grow up.
  19. Kenneth Law from Toronto, Canada writes: Sask Resident from Regina, Canada writes: ...Waterloo has a better reputation world wide than Toronto. Good luck young man.

    Dear Sask Resident: I respectfully disagree.

    I have worked for the University for Waterloo and have discussed this very topic with senior Waterloo faculty members. WE agree, with the exception of Math / Comp Sci programs, that Waterloo's engineering programs are not even on the radar of world engineering programs. Toronto is only ranked 10th worldwide for engineering; whereas, Waterloo is ranked around 30th.

    In the case of Mr. Yam, should he decide to pursue post-secondary education in Canada in the area of aerospace / defense, UofT would be very hard to beat. The ideal choice of course, if funding is not an issue, would be MIT.

    (Again, I graduated from both universities in engineering.)
  20. Dear Johnson from United States writes: Hey, if that thing's always spinning, then how are the space shuttles supposed to dock? And where's the golf course?

    Well.. I guess it's OK....
  21. J. Michael from Canada writes: I think we can stop calling modern day innovators or geniuses, 'nerds'.
  22. Wendy Stone from Canada writes: Sounds like a petty TO bias to me, Kenneth Law! Waterloo is a good pick ... one with a proven track record for innovation and for attracting some of the brightest minds in the country.

    Anyway, it is obvious that Eric Yam will do well, and do us all proud as Canadians, no matter where he goes to study. Congrats to him on his fantastic achievement.
  23. Canadian Pom from London, United Kingdom writes: I say as a Waterloo grad - Toronto does seem to have a better rep worldwide as a university. That said, having looked at all of the rankings I could find I can't help but smirk - didn't see Queens anywhere in those lists! Anyway yeah, for CS or Math, Waterloo, for engineering, probably Toronto. Waterloo is no slouch though.
  24. Canadian Pom from London, United Kingdom writes: I also forgot to say... Well done to Eric! I hope you find something fulfilling to do with that brain - don't close yourself off from the various branches of math and engineering just yet. As some have said, aeronautical engineering is not a hugely in demand degree.
  25. Tinfoil Hatt from Nowhereville, Canada writes:
    My son, now 12, has been saying since he was five that he wants to work at NASA when he grows up. The first time he said it, my wife responded, 'Doing what? Cleaning toilets?'

    I just showed him this article, hoping it will motivate him to do more in high school than just smoking pot and chasing girls. He gave me a highly ambiguous look, then went back to watching videos on You Tube.

    Oh well, I tried. He probably will become an engineer--maybe, just maybe, designing (space) toilets at NASA instead of cleaning them.

    Anyway, thanks, Eric Yam, you are an inspiration to all kids ( and even old farts) who aspire to ... whatever ... hey, that You Tube video is actually pretty funny...

    ....
  26. North Star from Canada writes: Way to go - congratulations! Very cool!
  27. chrissy z from Canada writes: The Toronto Star Managed to report on the same topic, without being so offensive as to call this kid a 'nerd'. Talk about branding him for life! Was that really a necessary headline? I don't think so. This is just reinforces why I rarely read The Globe and Mail and prefer the Toronto Star.

    Thanks for the reminder.
  28. Bill Reynolds from Ballarat, Australia writes: Great planning! Congratulations!

    To Dear Johnson from United States: For gravity at the circumference of the 1 kilometer-diameter space colony equal to that on Earth's surface, requires 1 revolution per 45 seconds. Perhaps 'turning' would be a better word than 'spinning'. Less gravity than that would be OK, so rotation could be 1 turn per minute or even a bit slower than that. Shuttle goes into a very slow roll to match the colony, then docks at one end to a dock on the axis of the colony. No probs.

    By the way, the golf course is on the last disk at the opposite end from the shuttle dock.
  29. D. Hightower from Canada writes: Congratulations young man. Nice to see the immigrants representing.

    Please don't ever think of visiting grandma overseas. You might suddenly become a citizen of convenience with terrorist affiliations.

    Harper and his gang might not let you back in the country.

    effing hypocrites !!!
  30. Darren In TO from Canada writes: Edmond Dusablon, yeah stereotypes are formed quickly. Just as you didnt comment on the kid's acheivement, but chose only to target my comment.
  31. Wayne Crockett from Toronto, Canada writes: If people want to see how docking with a spinning station would work they only have to watch 2001: A Space Oddysey, one of the many amazing visual effect in that film.
  32. D S from Canada writes: Congrats. Very impressive. These young eager beavers are the ones we need to keep in Canada to conduct important research and development projects. Let's hope we dont lose another brilliant mind to the states due to a lack of funding.
  33. Howard Young from Canada writes: He will likely end up at a U.S. university with a full scholarship and access to some of the greatest research minds.
  34. Big Pouzzo from Toronto, Canada writes: QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY ALL THE WAY BABY!!!!!!
  35. Lyn Alg from Canada writes: Re Kenneth Law: Kenneth, in deference to your comments, although U. of T. is a very well respected and probably the best in Canada, when it comes to graduate studies, Waterloo is Canada's MIT in engineering and mathematics studies. I, too, am a graduate from both schools. It's great to learn that Canada is able to produce such excellent students. Congratulations, Mr. Yam.
  36. The Iconoclast from Canada writes: He might as well get a scholarship at MIT and go straight to the US and stay there. We in Canada have little funding or opportunity for talented people to do advance research.

    Congrats.
  37. Michael Cole from Canada writes: As a U(W) - That's U of Waterloo for non mathies alumni I am inclined to agree with Kenneth Law, Eric should take a close look at U of T engineering. And as an Engineer (B. Math Waterloo, M.Eng Ryerson) anyone who thinks engineers will make 'billions' of dollars is crazy. Remember Bill Gates was a Harvard business school drop out. Engineers, like me, have no knack for making wealth, just making the world better.

    As an NSS alumni, I think its too bad Mr. Robb isn't there anymore, he retired the year I graduated. He was the head of the physics department and a space science junkie. He even created an expiremental course, NSX 3X0 (Grade 11 space science), where students still learned bio, chem and physics, but with a more space based application. Instead of how much energy is required to melt an ice cube of such a weight, it was, how much energy is required to melt all the ice on Europa if the moon has a diameter of blah and a an average temperature of blahblah.
  38. Overtaxed and underlaid from Canada writes: Great job, very impressive. By all means set your sights on NASA - just don't get sucked into the US's weapon development programs.
  39. The Diplomatizer from Canada writes: 'Do you think this will help you get a girlfriend?'

    What kind of a question is that?!?! I have to agree with the 'branding for life' argument--there's nothing wrong at all with being a nerd and waiting until university (whether it's UW or UoT) to chase girls ;)
  40. RD Lone from Vancouver, Canada writes: How do people drag politics into this? Seriously.. get a grip.

    Congrats on the impressive accomplishment.
  41. cats desire from Canada writes: What a wonderful, great achievement and congratulations! Oh, the places you’ll go…..
  42. Tango Tiago from Canada writes: Excellent job Eric.
  43. NEIL HAMILTON from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Hey, Eric. Will there be anybody from Keswick allowed on your space colony? LOL!
  44. Ken DeLuca from Arnprior, Canada writes: Canada as a model for the world. Far Out!
  45. Just In I Can't be Snowed I'm from Canada writes: -
    An inspiration for all kids.

    The author is obviously jealous. Chasing girls seems to be his idea of achievment. He has to say some thing to disparage this young man.
  46. Ken DeLuca from Arnprior, Canada writes: As to that girlfriend question, many girls want a guy who can make them laugh, others want a man who can make them smile, still fewer want a man who can make them think. Those girls are rare and precious and well worth the wait.
  47. Irresponsible and Unpredictible from Canada writes: I call dibs in the colony!
  48. Joan Carpenter from Ontario, Canada writes: Congratulations Eric, I will not advise you on what school to choose but I'll just say, be open-minded and follow your heart/dreams. Explore all avenues and take advantage of the many opportunities that come your way. If the numerous offers serve to overwhelm, seek wisdom from someone with experience who you respect.

    People who possess a passion for something besides themselves, are usually successful. And happier, too.

    Your extrordinary creativity means 'the sky's the limit.' No pun intended.

    Thank you for being and inspiration to us all!

    And don't forget, people who choose employment in a field they enjoy,
    seldom 'work' a day in their lives.

    To the Globe and Mail: thank you for providing an inspirational story. While controversy & crime sells news, so too does inspiration. Optimism is a force enhancer.

  49. poor engineer from Toronto, Canada writes: Chico Sanchez: '...Get an engineering education, but go get a graduate finance degree afterward; the pay and reward is incomparable.' Totally, 100% correct.
    Applying your multiplying and dividing skills from grade 4 in finance will get you way further ahead than using your partial differential equations knowledge and talents in any engineering field.
    Sad but true - period.
    (Although the most useful skills are 'people skills' - politics, tact, attitude, communication - if you don't have these, you're dead in any field)
  50. Real Westerner from Canada writes: Only problem with this type of Space Station it will be full of lying cheating Lawyers [Politians] and corrupt CEO's ...This kid should be getting federal grants or whatever help he needs instead of giving money welfare bums...
  51. Chico Sanchez from Canada writes: You folks don't get it; we should stop this false fantasy world of space exploration. There are greater problems to solve here on Earth. I'm all for commercial initiatives (e.g., telecom/TV/data services) and useful data acquisition (e.g., earth monitoring, topography, environment, etc). I also support autonomous exploration for scientific purposes. However, human spaceflight is a waste. A lot of these older space geeks have 'Al Bundy Syndrome' (the four touchdowns in one game) when they speak of the heydays of space exploration (60s, 70s and early 80s). We should stop trying to create this 'Fantasy Island' Kool-Aid drinking B.S. about space colonization and focus on resolving our issues here on Earth.
  52. kevin o'connor from Canada writes: 'Finally some recognition'

    Too cute. Dude, your only in grade 12.
  53. Brian Sexsmith from Canada writes: A great accomplishment Eric Yam - congratulations!

    Peter Cheney: Was it really necessary to ask a brillant 16 year old high school student about a girlfriend and then further inquire whether he thinks his brains might help him find one? Would you have asked him if he had a boyfriend? Of course not. Think a little.
  54. Glynn W from Canada writes: Well done! MIT might be waiting in the wings to snatch hmi from Canadian universities...we had better watch out!
  55. Pete H from Canada writes: By Thursday, the news had sunk in. “It's great,” he said. “Finally some recognition.”
    Young Mr Yam is in a hurry. Hope he is happy in his pursuits. Something tells me he is.
  56. Andrea from Vancouver from Canada writes: Geez, there's more to life than chasing girls. But, in case that is one of his interests, I want him to know that some girls are quite taken with engineers...and end up marrying them. And other girls become engineers (and sometimes also marry engineers). Smart girls like smart guys and his future is bright in many ways.
  57. Double Speak from Canada writes: Congratulations Eric

    A 'nerd' shoots for the stars, and NASA comes knocking

    I wished that the Globe & Mail never used the word 'nerd' in its article ..G&M is basically saying studying science is 'bad' activity.

    Nerd is a word that has a derogatory connotation or stereotype. ' A foolish, inept, or unattractive person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers.'

    Science and engineering are key components for prosperous economy and future economy (Green technologies) . Without math or science graduates .. our Knowledge intensive economy would grind to a stop .

  58. Serenity Now from Canada writes: Hey awesome for him, it's obviously his passion!
  59. Robert` Gibbons from toronto, Canada writes: Quite comical to read the comments on this. You 'space nerds' are so ridiculous in your supposed understanding of the next phase of human evolution. Any understanding of human psychology and biology when it comes to space leads to one conclusion- humans in space would likely become suicidal within one year. Take a look around you and account for the aesthetic of life on this planet. YOU'VE WATCHED TO MUCH STAR TREK! Even if it is possible to 'survive' in these conditions....you still have to have the will to live!!!!!!!
  60. Matthew Harper from Toronto, Canada writes: Howabout the next time a young artist in the GTA gets signed to a hip hop label the G&M interviewer can ask if they are a fan of Escalades an Courvoisier? What about if a young hockey player from a small town gets drafted to the NHL in the first round. Are you gonna ask what brand of pickup truck he likes the best? Please stop re-inforcing stereotypes as a way to 'humanize' you interview subjects. It's lazy.
  61. Chris J from Canada writes: Congratulations! Best of luck in your next project.

    Oh and Canadian Pom... Queen's consistently ranks higher overall than both schools. This year, McGill came first and U of T (which was 4th last year) tied Queen's for second (Maclean's Rankings).

    They're all great schools, though.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    Canadian Pom from London, United Kingdom writes: I say as a Waterloo grad - Toronto does seem to have a better rep worldwide as a university. That said, having looked at all of the rankings I could find I can't help but smirk - didn't see Queens anywhere in those lists! Anyway yeah, for CS or Math, Waterloo, for engineering, probably Toronto. Waterloo is no slouch though.
  62. Dubya . from Canada writes: Double-Speaks' writing sounds like nerd-talk to me-

    Relax, the use of nerd is fun, and if you're offended by people using the term nerd, then having the word used against you is the least of your concerns-

    p.s. I have a M.Sc. and would readily describe myself as a nerd
  63. Dean The Machine from Canada writes: Excellent concept to play off of. I'm thinking that this design would make a great habitat module, for a ship that is looking for another earth like home within our galaxy. Three cheers for Eric.
  64. Maritimer in Nova Scotia from Canada writes: Good thing he never required funding from Harper.
  65. S Hussain from Canada writes: Water Water Water !!! Loo Loo Loo!!
  66. Mark S from Calgary, Canada writes: D Hightower, your a loser. Idiot this article has no political content, at all. Yet you have to bring it up. JERK.

    By the way Eric congrats, this is an inspiring story of a bright young man.
  67. Winston Churchill from London, Canada writes: Cool.

    Q: why is the dumb kids who think they're cool?

    A: because God is just but merciful. The rest of life is revenge of the nerds.
  68. Frank Kuschnereit from Ottawa, Canada writes: Hmmm, 10,000 modules x 500kg = 5mil kgs just for the habitation modules alone. Add a mill kgs for the central core and you end up with a lot of mass to be lifted into orbit. It is currently not feasable to launch objects heavier than 1 kg with a rail gun. Unless some radical new method is invented like antigravity or fusion power, we are going to be stuck with chemical rockets which are hugely inefficent and expensive. I suspect the way to go is to mine the asteroids and use them for the raw materials. There is enough metal and water already up there to build and supply colonies. The asteroid belts have the added advantage of not being in a gravity well so travel is much easier. In any event, kudos to the young lad for winning the competition.

    They say the meek will inherit the earth. The rest of us will escape to the stars.
  69. Dear Johnson from United States writes: Bill Reynolds from Ballarat, Australia writes: Great planning! Congratulations!

    To Dear Johnson from United States: For gravity at the circumference of the 1 kilometer-diameter space colony equal to that on Earth's surface, requires 1 revolution per 45 seconds. Perhaps 'turning' would be a better word than 'spinning'. Less gravity than that would be OK, so rotation could be 1 turn per minute or even a bit slower than that. Shuttle goes into a very slow roll to match the colony, then docks at one end to a dock on the axis of the colony. No probs.

    By the way, the golf course is on the last disk at the opposite end from the shuttle dock.

    Another idea is to use some kind of clutch on the shuttle to bring it up to rotational speed once it's seated during docking, instead of trying to match the roll of the shuttle to the rotation of the station before docking.

    If the golf course goes on the opposite end, then your balls would never return to the 'ground'. You'd have to put it on the inner surface of the habitation cylinder for simulated gravity. It would probably have to be a mini-golf or a 9-hole pitch 'n put at best...
  70. Zac Trolley from calgary, Canada writes: I have to go with Double Speak on this one; why do we have to use negative language when talking about intelligent people? Actions like this make it harder and harder to convince people that science needs to be at the forefront of public discussion.
  71. Did you Know Canada?!? from Canada writes: Great job Eric. We are all very proud of you. Best of luck with your future ventures. You have also done a great job shutting the anti-immigration crowd on this board!
  72. S Hickey from Canada writes: imagine...i was happy with that 70 i got in sociology!???

    great work and congrats!

    although, i'm a millionaire...no joke!
  73. Fake Name from Canada writes: 'Chris J from Canada writes: Oh and Canadian Pom... Queen's consistently ranks higher overall than both schools. This year, McGill came first and U of T (which was 4th last year) tied Queen's for second (Maclean's Rankings). They're all great schools, though.'

    Yeah, because Maclean's counts 'school spirit' as a very important element, and disproportionately looks at the humanities / arts and science faculties in undergrad rankings (mediocre at U of T, and not exactly what Waterloo is known for either). Those are hardly what this student is going to be interested in.

    Queens' has produced some interesting biotech companies, but Waterloo, McGill, and Toronto are still the titans in science and engineering research.
  74. Hydrogen Bob from Canada writes: Congratulations Eric Yam on a great achievement.

    I am at loss for the editorial slant of the G&M. The choose to honour Mr Yam with a cover photo and a praising article for his achievement (good) but use the pejorative 'geek' and 'nerd' in the title and first paragraph. What's up with that? Is that some feeble attempt at humour or a need to insult the smartest guy in the room. Strange behaviour indeed.
  75. Douglas Freestone from Canada writes: Congratulatins! Very impressive. You are a very bright young man with a great future. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have D. Hightower from Canada, and Maritimer in Nova Scotia from Canada, who both attempted to make this a partisan thread. You are both fools (and will be left off the space colony).
  76. Richard Provencher from Truro, NS, Canada writes: This is a young Canadian we should all be proud of. Way to go. We'll be hearing much from him in later years.
  77. Just my opinion ... from Canada writes: Very nice achievement Mr Yam!
  78. John Yossarian from Ottawa, Canada writes: Does the reporter know what the word "intergalactic" means? It doesn't simply mean "in space".
  79. Mi Mo from Canada writes: Great work! Oh, if we could all be as dedicated and interested in things that matter. Do you think the university makes such a big difference? This young man sounds to me like a person who would research, experiment and find out what he wants to know - who cares if he goes to Waterloo, U of T or U of Who Knows Where.

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