Deutsches Museum in Germany is 66,000 square meters and contains 28,000 exhibited items. A team of four Cal Poly mechanical engineering seniors is adding one more item to that list for the museum’s 1.5 million yearly visitors to see — a prototype of the world’s first commercially successful internal combustion engine.
The team — Lance Hodgson, Rachel Jakob, Keiran Hansen and Chris Splees — call themselves “Otto-Mated”. They are advised by mechanical engineering professor John Ridgely and sponsored by mechanical engineering professor Frank Owen. Their senior project exhibition will be put in place by November 2018. It will include scale models of key parts of the engine, 3-D digital renderings of how the engine works, a multilingual audio guide to its history and mechanics and the original engine, serial number seven.
The team is excited by the opportunity to work toward their degree while cultivating international relationships.
“We’re taking advantages of opportunities to work with a different country, strengthen ties;and it’s important to realize that we are all working together [to] share information,” Hodgson said. “It’s an opportunity that we should work more towards as a university with other nations.”
The history of the engine
The atmospheric non-compression engine, also known as the Otto-Langen Engine, was made in 1867 by Nikolaus Otto and is the precursor to every internal combustion engine used today, from car engines to rocket engines.
The Otto-Langen Engine won gold in the state fair in 1867 and the Deutsches Museum has a non-working original engine that will be the center of the exhibit. Beyond its historical significance, the fact that its piston is driven down by the atmosphere makes it unique. Current engines contain flywheels that force the piston down by force.
According to Jakob, Otto-Mated has already designed the overall exhibit layouts and planned the animation sequences. All that’s left is to complete the model of the engine parts, create and refine the animations in their 3-D animating software Blender and then build the physical model.
Not Cal Poly’s first rodeo
Cal Poly was called twice before to aid the museum, working on the Frauenkirche Turmuhr clock between 2006 and 2008 and the Braun-Vayringe Machine, a complex calculator, in 2011. In both cases, the team of Cal Poly students carried out the same task they are now — analyzing the machinery and creating a 3-D model to explain its functionality.
Hodgson even traveled to Lockport, New York to meet with Wayne Grenning, a professional engine restorer who has tinkered with engines since he was 10 years old, to see his model of the Otto-Langen Engine.
Otto-Mated is also considering visiting the museum for the rest of the month after they complete the project, to make sure the exhibit goes in as planned. Though staying longer costs money, Hodgson described the funding for the trip as currently “the last thing on [their] minds,” compared to the work they are keeping on top of already.
According to Hodgson, the project was found through a bid process — the Deutsches Museum presented their exhibit to be planned as a senior project — and the four students placed their bids to accept it.
When asked why he chose this particular project, Splees said, “I’ve been into motor sports auto industry since I can remember it. I built cars, I built engines and I saw this and I thought, this was ideal.”