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The Inventive High School Sophomore

Max Wallack starts at BU Academy with some creative credentials

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Inventor Max Wallack heads to BU Academy this fall. Photo provided by Max Wallack

Think of incoming Boston University Academy 10th grader Max Wallack’s summer vacation as a variation on a theme: a couple of family trips, a little light reading, and some time with a favorite hobby.

The reading is David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, an optional book for one of Wallack’s academy courses this fall.

The hobby is taekwondo; Wallack holds what’s known as a recommended black belt.

The family’s August road trip to Toronto, however, also involved two days of Wallack being filmed for an Ontario TV show about promising young inventors.

It should come as no surprise that the summer activities of a 13-year-old inventor who first gained national recognition as a second grader, who counts among his accomplishments a project that helps people with Alzheimer’s disease and a cheap, easily built dome to house the homeless, are departures from traditional teenage pursuits.

In 2002, Wallack was accepted into the Nevada-based Davidson Institute for Talent Development’s young scholars program, which describes itself as dedicated to nurturing profoundly gifted young people.

At a Lake Tahoe event, institute founder Jan Davidson imparted an idea that helped Wallack set his course: those who have the ability to help others have the responsibility to do so.

“That phrase stuck with me,” Wallack says, sitting in his Natick home, sporting a T-shirt with an image of a gorilla from the Saint Louis Zoo. “So then I started inventing.”

In 2003, he won the top award in the Craftsman/National Science Teachers Association Young Inventors Awards Program for his Great-Granny Booster Step, a wooden step with a collapsible handle created to help his great-grandmother get in and out of the family minivan. He later invented the patent-pending Carpal Cushion.

Seeing that carpal tunnel syndrome was causing his maternal grandmother pain, he devised a cushion that is “basically cloth,” he says, “with two Velcro straps and Bubble Wrap inside so it’s kind of like the carpal tunnel is resting on air. It’s a soft way to relieve pressure.”

Another accomplishment he’s proud of is Puzzles to Remember, a project that distributes donated puzzles to places that care for people with Alzheimer’s.

Wallack, who wants to become a geriatric psychiatrist or biomedical engineer, came up with the idea in honor of his great-grandmother, who suffered from dementia before dying in her 90s. Working on puzzles helps slow the disease, he says. “I feel happy to help other people and to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s, because I know what it’s like to have someone who has Alzheimer’s. It’s really hard.”

Yet another creation, the Home Dome, has garnered the most attention.

When Wallack was in Chicago with his family to receive the award for his booster seat, they got lost in an area crowded with homeless people living in makeshift shelters (scenes from the Batman movie The Dark Knight were filmed there, he says).

“I always kept in the back of my mind how I might help these people,” he says.

When he found out about the Trash to Treasure Competition put together by the PBS show Design Squad, Intel, and the By Kids for Kids company, he designed the Home Dome, a dome made of panels of discarded Styrofoam peanuts stuffed into plastic bags and anchored by a built-in bed. He won the 2008 competition and a $10,000 check from Intel.

That’s what landed Wallack in Toronto for the TV filming and in Washington D.C., for a presentation before U.S. senators. But the attention hasn’t gone to his head, according to his mother, Linda Wallack.

“He wants to do what’s best for everybody, what’s best for himself,” she says.

Taekwondo helps, too. He took it up when he was four years old because he wanted a challenge. “I just thought that it would be kind of cool because I’m not that good at it,” he says.

His grandmother laughs. “If he starts thinking he’s good at anything, all he has to do is take another taekwondo class,” she says. “Ask him how many times he took the physical test before he passed it.”

His quick answer: four tries.

The self-described science and math person who also loves history will join about 50 new BU Academy students for orientation on September 1. Academy students use University resources and facilities daily, says Paige Brewster, director of admissions and financial aid. Starting junior year, they can take University courses; students who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average in University-level courses are considered strong candidates for admission to most (though not all) undergraduate programs.

“We like to say we have the best of both worlds: our own high school that’s part of something much larger,” Brewster says.

Wallack is excited about small classes and “huge resources,” he says. Being part of something much larger shouldn’t be a big transition for a young inventor who already has been garnering national recognition. Perhaps his next invention will emerge as he walks along Comm Ave.

24 Comments

24 Comments on The Inventive High School Sophomore

  • Beth on 08.31.2009 at 11:54 am

    Amazing.

    Wow, this is certainly an amazing kid. What great talent. I would love to see more on the dome to house the homeless. After all there are more and more of them everyday. casino en ligne

    • Lily on 04.22.2010 at 1:54 am

      Congratulations to max on sorting out a good future for himself, and a legacy left behind that he can be proud of!

  • Anonymous on 08.31.2009 at 4:32 pm

    You can read more about the Home Dome at:
    http://www.bkfk.com/trashtotreasure/senate.htm

  • Anonymous on 08.31.2009 at 8:32 pm

    I fail to see why stuffing packing peanuts in plastic bags and anchoring them on a bed is impressive. I was doing genetic engineering at his age and many of my fellow HS students were doings things comprable. Honestly, these articles pick one situation to describe in order to find something of interest to their readers, who are mislead into thinking of the sitaution as an extreme rarity only because the forces of circumstance chose one topic to be highlighted amongst many others. (Not that I dislike or disapprove of his actions. I support them and they are very beneficial.)

  • Anonymous on 09.08.2009 at 3:14 pm

    it’s impressive because he was innovating. it’s one thing to follow somebody else’s well-established genetic engineering protocol. it’s a completely different beast to be developing pragmatic solutions to existing problems

  • Henry on 10.07.2009 at 10:51 am

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  • Pepsi on 10.15.2009 at 11:36 am

    It is an amazing kid ! Jeux

    It is an amazing kid !

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  • AlexJohns on 10.20.2009 at 3:59 pm

    Great

    Wow, Amazing Kid ! He definitely rocks =)

  • Alex J. on 10.20.2009 at 4:04 pm

    Impressive

    Really great kid, very clever, thanks Max

  • Anonymous on 10.26.2009 at 1:06 pm

    Stories like this just make me all warm and fuzzy inside :) Way to go Max! Cheers to a bright future!

  • personal loans on 10.26.2009 at 1:08 pm

    Love stories like this. This kid has an amazing future ahead of him!

  • Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace on 11.27.2009 at 5:17 pm

    wow Amazing Gifted kid

    Many thanks for the story, amazing gifted kid, he has a bright future ahead of him.

  • Jason Glades on 12.16.2009 at 11:46 am

    I have just read this book "Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity" and I must say some aspects from this book helped me in university. (Jason)

  • S.W on 01.19.2010 at 5:06 am

    Max Wallack article on "I Remember Better When I Paint"

    Just read this article which was inspirational and wanted to find out more about the author, which is how I landed on this page.

    Thank you Max Wallack! For those interested, the article is about a film Max saw “I Remember Better When I Paint” and how the farts help people with Alzheimer’s lead an improved quality of life. It is posted in the Alzheimer’s reading Room at:

    http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/01/film-premiere-i-remember-better-when-i.html

  • Anonymous on 03.10.2010 at 1:42 am

    Can’t believe he is so young. There are some genious on earth but very few are devoted to only helping others. Wish there will be millions like him. Please, help brighten our future Wallack.casino en ligne

  • Seb on 04.05.2010 at 8:32 am

    Hope my kids will become like him :)
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  • Juliette on 04.07.2010 at 10:21 pm

    What an amazing young man, dedicating his time to help others when he is so young himself. It makes me feel sheepish that, although Im not a brilliant child genius like Max, I could be doing something to help my community too.
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  • Helen on 04.11.2010 at 10:22 pm

    Congratulations to Max on showing us that help and inherent goodness can be motivated at any age. I’m going to read “Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity” as well…hope I dont need to be a child genius to understand!
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  • Indie on 04.16.2010 at 1:25 am

    I cant believe this guy is so young, and has already accomplished so much. What an inspiration to those around him – young or old!
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  • Anonymous on 04.22.2010 at 7:44 am

    Thank M. James

    Thank you for sharing, this kid is simply amazing …

  • Frank Sims on 05.24.2010 at 2:33 am

    When i was Max’s age I was climbing trees and playing with worms. I commend Max and other kids like him who have already made such a difference to the world they live in. Hopefully this is only the start of something huge.
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  • Chesire Cat on 06.21.2010 at 1:58 am

    Well done Max on getting such a clear vision on your future so early in life. I wish him nothing but the best and I’m sure that this wont be the last we hear of this talented young man.
    Everyone looks forward to big things from Max and rightfully so. Make up for the lack of action that others take (including myself!)
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  • Piaf on 06.23.2010 at 10:48 pm

    Surely there is a grant or something we can present to this young man to assist him in the invention of bigger and better ideas. He is certainly proving that he is more than he can be, even at this young age. Where is the government assistance in these projects?
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  • Richard B. Kahn, M.Ed. on 07.07.2010 at 8:14 am

    Congratulations, Max!

    I remember you and your mom from AMSACS and I’m not surprised you have continued on to even bigger and better things.

    Being 13 years old and already a high-school sophomore is pretty impressive in its own right.

    If I could offer a work of caution, though. One recent poster asked “Where is the government assistance in these projects?” I am sure your mom said, in one form or another, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” The government can’t give something to you that they don’t first take from someone else. All your work, from helping geriatric patients, to people with carpal tunnel syndrome, to the homeless, has been out of the goodness of your heart and not by force. When you accept government money, you accept taking by force from another for your own purposes, which may or may not be a more noble purpose than those whose money has been taken.

    Keep up the good work!

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