LAVALETTE - Robert Fischer sees the world differently than most.
When his wife injured her foot a few months ago, she had to be on crutches. When most people see aluminum crutches, they think of the time they too were on crutches and their armpits hurt.
Fischer saw a dipole antenna.
"I have built probably 100 or more antennas of all designs," Fischer said. "After you do that you start looking at all conductors, metal objects, as antennas. You think what would happen if you tried loading up, put a signal into the antenna and radiate it into space. It's something I do subconsciously, something I can't help.
"A dipole antenna is as simple as you can get. It's the link of the conductor, that's it. Whenever you see those antennas, it's immediate," he said.
Fischer's inventive use of the crutches got him front page billing on "Nuts and Volts" magazine, which published Fischer's story on how to make the antenna in the August edition of the magazine.
Fischer, who grew up in Harveytown and now lives in Lavalette, constructed the dipole while he was in Florida. Once he got it on the back of his truck, he realized what he had was a real attention-getter.
"Ham radio is having a hard time luring people into the hobby," he said. "When I was young, it was really cool to be able to use the radio to talk to someone on other side of the world. Now we have cell phones."
So he said what the heck, and wrote an article on his design and sent it to the editors at "Nuts and Volts."
"I'm just flattered they published it in the first place," Fischer said. "Then to give me billing on the front, I didn't expect that before it came out."
Fischer has always been interested in electronics. He opens his article with a personal story about his father giving him a crystal radio set when he was about 8 or 9 years old. It just needed an antenna, so he found one.
"There was real excitement in that for me," he said. "There was anticipation and learning as I went along. I was just having fun in those days. A kid trying out everything."
Fischer was lucky to be a part of Huntington East High School's electronics technology program, a federally funded program launched after NASA was formed in response to the U.S.S.R. releasing a satellite into space.
The first class only had 15 students and each went on to be successful. Fischer went on to get a degree in physics and general science at Marshall University, eventually getting a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He now runs his own business, Fischer Technical Services, and teaches college courses.
When asked what his wife Lynn thought when he told her he was going to make a working antenna out of crutches, Fischer said he does a lot of crazy things, so even to his neighbors, crutches on the back of his truck isn't surprising.
"I gave a copy of the article to my daughter, and she came over and was reading it," he said. "I overheard her telling her mother 'His brain just doesn't work like ours,'" he said with a laugh.
He said anything he has ever done is because of his wife.
"I have to give her lots of credit," Fischer said. "I went to school until I was 46, and I was working, many jobs requiring 24-hour attention. She took care of the rearing of kids and the finances, paying bills and everything. She's a very important part of anything I have done because she gave me freedom to do things that I wanted to do."
Fischer said he has received some phenomenal feedback already from readers, one even giving him another idea he is tinkering with.
Fischer said he thinks the best use for his design is for "teaching about antenna resonance, getting attention at hamfests and starting conversations about emergency communications at public venues promoting ham radio."
"In an emergency situation, you can get on the air with a pair of crutches," Fischer said.
Fischer will have his crutches dipole on display at the 53th annual Tri-State Amateur Radio Association's Hamfest Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Tri-State Fire Academy on Route 2 in Huntington. Fischer will give a seminar on them starting at 9:45 a.m.
There is unlimited free parking during the event, which is from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $5.
The August edition of "Nuts and Volts" can be found at Empire Books and News in Pullman Square.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter @TaylorStuckHD.
Name: Robert Fischer
Education: Ph.D. in electrical engineering
Job: Owner, Fischer Technical Services and teaches college courses