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The Carletonian

Physics students bring ‘Lamp Tag’ to Carleton

<dle of summer Olin can be a busy place, even when the rest of Carleton is quiet.  But even with eight or more hours of work a day, students who stayed on campus to study Physics still had time for some extracurricular projects.
Minty Kunkel ’12, a physics major who worked for Professor Marty Baylor, spent his spare time on an idea he thought of years ago while walking in the Arb.

“I thought it would be fun to use outdoor scenery in a game,” Kunkel explained. 

The game he created was “lamp tag,” a variant of laser tag that uses infrared lamps – the same type used by TV remotes – instead of laser beams.  Over the next few years, Kunkel drafted designs for the equipment needed to play lamp tag, but this summer he realized that he simply couldn’t build the equipment on his own. 

The solution? Man power.

Kinkel got ten other students involved after pitching his idea.  One of those students was Becky Riss ’12, a physics and studio art double major.

“At the beginning of the summer, Minty asked lots of physics majors to help with this project,” she said.  “We ended up reworking a lot of the original design.” 

They also had help from Tom Baraniak, the electronics and laboratory manager for the physics department.  Over the duration of the summer, they managed to assemble two sets of equipment out of the six they eventually planned to use to construct the machinery. 

“The hardest part,” according to Kunkel, “was simply organizing the people working on the project.” 

The equipment needed for lamp tag consists of a “gun” containing an infrared lamp and a concave mirror and lens to focus its beam, and a sash with four infrared sensors attached – two in the front and two in the back – to detect a “hit.”

The setup can automatically shut off a player’s gun when he is hit, works at ranges of up to 200 feet and, most importantly, is completely safe. Kunkel explained how the beam from the lamp would need to be three thousand times stronger to pose a danger to the eye.

All of this equipment is cheap – a single set costs about forty dollars, compared to around three thousand dollars for the equipment used in laser tag. 

Minty hopes to have all six sets of equipment completed by Oct. 17, midterm break, and hold games of lamp tag on the Bald Spot and in the Arb.  For the long run, he says, “the equipment is the property of Carleton College and will be around for future students to enjoy and learn from.”

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