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It all started with Legos

It all started with Legos, those iconic plastic blocks of all shapes, colors, and sizes. The Legos and their limitless possibilities fueled Clay Wright’s curiosity. “I always thought I wanted to be an engineer because of Legos. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together,” Clay said. Eventually, Clay’s curiosity pulled him away from his Lego creations and to new adventures. “When I was four,” Clay said, “I’d pull apart my family’s go-cart motor and put it back together again, and I did this over and over again. I even took apart my Gameboy one time, just to see what made it work.”

This natural curiosity, paired with a love for mathematics, is what brought Clay to Presbyterian College. “Originally, I thought I wanted to be an engineer. I took an engineering class but realized I didn’t want to know how to build a bridge. I wanted to know why the bridge was able to function,” he said.

Clay’s desire to know the reason something worked is what caused him to gravitate toward PC’s physics classes, where the professors, especially Dr. Eli Owens, assistant professor of physics, led him to a new adventure – research. Together, Clay and Dr. Owens created a proposal for a research grant, and NASA accepted the proposal and awarded Clay the NASA South Carolina Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Award.

“My research addressed confined granular flow. In essence, I examined how airflow behaves with different granular materials, such as corn, grain, and rice,” said Clay. He admits his research doesn’t sound overly exciting. The excitement, however, lies in the implications of Clay’s research. “The findings of my research will help make the transport of granular materials, the second most manipulated substance in industry, safer. As for the space program, the information gleaned from my research will help influence the ways in which granular materials are transported and manipulated in space.”

Who would have thought that Legos could be a spark for adventure?

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