The Village of Altamont Archives and Museum is hosting an exhibition titled “Ingenious Minds: Early Altamont Inventors,” showcasing the patented inventions of some of the early residents of the village.
Earlier this year, the museum’s curator, Marijo Dougherty, reached out to Rensselaer to ask for assistance. “We do have vintage portraits of most of the early inventors and also a researched biography on each person,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, for exhibition and study purposes we do not have the actual invented objects.”
Dougherty contacted Sam Chiappone, manager of the Manufacturing Innovation Learning Lab (MILL) at Rensselaer, and asked if he and his students could help. She wondered if it would be possible for the students to re-create one of the objects on a 3-D printer, using the patent drawings she collected for the exhibit. “The interface between 19th century drawings and 21st century technology would be an incredible service to historic collections such as ours, when we are lacking the objects connected to our research,” Dougherty said.
Students Veronika Bychkova (civil engineering), who did the CAD work, and Larry Oligny (mechanical engineering), who runs the rapid prototyping machines in the MILL, produced a “Tie for Letter Packages.” The parts were 3-D printed on a Stratasys UPrint machine in the MILL.
“This project allowed Veronika and Larry to actually see how the entire computer-aided design to 3-D printing process is used to convey a designer’s intent,” said Chiappone. “What made the project interesting, aside from this learning experience, is Veronika and Larry linked an inventor’s idea from the 19th century to one of the most intriguing modern processes of 3-D printing.
“As a freshman, this was a great opportunity to apply something that I learned into modern use,” said Bychkova. “My task was to recreate a patent that John Mersellis designed in 1878. It was a bit difficult in the fact that I had two images to work from, with no dimensions or specifics. If anything, I was making up most of the design and tweaking it until it resembled the shape and the function of the patent. Then, I sent it to the 3-D facility and it was printed.”
Bychkova’s parents traveled from Princeton, N.J., to attend the exhibition’s opening reception with their daughter. “Everyone was so nice, and also very interested,” she said. “I explained as much as I could about the process and I do believe I sparked some interest about Rensselaer. It was a huge pleasure being a part of something like this and I hope to work on such projects in the future.”
“This project was especially interesting to me because it had to do with a town’s heritage and I have always enjoyed learning about history,” said Oligny. “This is my second year working in the MILL and it has been enjoyable. I have learned a lot about different machines, how they work, and how to run them.”
After graduating, Oligny said he intends to pursue a career in manufacturing. “Working in the MILL has better prepared me by giving me experience working with machines and people.”