Photo and story courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory
As a high school junior, Caleb Hatler took Advanced Robotics I and II at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. There, he became so fascinated with additive manufacturing that he purchased a small 3D printer that fit in his backpack.
“I loved how it worked,” Caleb says of the printer. “But I couldn’t see how it worked.”
So he decided to build a 3D printer of his own. He ordered a kit online and spent a week building and calibrating the machine. He’s been 3D printing ever since. “I print things I design,” he says. “I printed almost an entire robot for a robotics class—it looked like a scorpion.”
Given his inclination toward tinkering and building things, it’s no surprise that Caleb—a 2018 graduating senior at Los Alamos High School—hopes to major in mechanical engineering. He will attend LeTourneau University, which has a strong engineering program that’s “very hands on,” according to Caleb. “Everything you learn is applied to what you’re doing.” But the small Christian university in Longview, Texas, wasn’t always in the cards for Caleb. After his father passed away unexpectedly in 2016, money was tight for his mother and three siblings. Caleb applied to 10 colleges that varied in price. He also applied for a Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) scholarship.
In April, he received a phone call while he was at home making lunch. The LANL Foundation was calling to award him a $10,000 Domenici scholarship. “I was very excited—I began thinking that LeTourneau was a possibility,” he says. “I was trying not to freak out into the phone.”
Caleb’s father would undoubtedly be proud of his son today. “He always wanted me to pursue academics,” Caleb says. “He was very interested in me doing robotics and supportive of me being able to nerd out.”
Caleb’s father worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which to Caleb growing up seemed like “the pinnacle” of smart people doing essential science and engineering work. Now, Caleb works there, too. This will be his second summer at PT-3, where he does robotics work, including designing and testing robots.
“We’re working on a mobile robot,” he says. “The end goal is for the robot to scan for alpha radiation.”
Caleb hopes to continue robotics work in college and to pursue other interests such as music. As a high schooler, he served as the drum major in the marching band and as a member of the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra. At LeTourneau, he hopes to play the bassoon in the school’s worship band and in the community orchestra.
When Caleb visited LeTourneau in January, he played in an intermural volleyball game and toured the campus, which is home to 1,800 undergraduate students. “It’s small,” he says. “Everyone knows everyone—just like here in Los Alamos.”