ArticlesBlog

Boiler Bytes: Indiana Bicentennial Torch

Boiler Bytes: Indiana Bicentennial Torch


Hi, I’m Aysha Davis and welcome to Boiler Bytes…the show that gives you an in-depth look at what’s happening on the Purdue campus. In 1816 Indiana became the 19th state to be admitted to the United States of America. In commemorating Indiana’s Bicentennial, 10 signature projects were created to honor the state’s past and celebrate its present. In one of these projects the faculty and students of Purdue University’s College of Engineering literally lit the way in a statewide journey of historical proportions. The final torch is just amazing how beautiful it is…the construction technology and you can see in the polish of it, that there’s there’s such care and concern by all that worked on it. But it’s something that truly is memorable for Indiana for many many years to come. Part of our goal with the Bicentennial was to make sure it was grassroots. And how do you reach six and a half million people in 566 communities across Indiana? And the torch really was a way of going county by county and city by city, town by town – so really people could have a chance to experience it as a volunteer, as a torchbearer, as an observer. And since we have the torch as the iconic symbol of our state flag, the Torch of Liberty, it was a perfect tie-in. First challenge was ‘Gosh, we need a torch! How do we get a torch?’ and there were a number of options of getting a torch but I had that the great pleasure of I called Mike Piggott and said “Mike, you know, let’s have a cup of coffee, I got something to talk about. Perry said, “we have this idea of building a torch – to take it through all the different 92 counties of the state and we’re going to put out a request for help to all the different universities and see if maybe they can design a high-tech and Hoosier-made torch.” And I said before you do that, I have an idea. I bet Purdue would be just the people you’re looking for. Quite quickly it became very clear that we wanted to have a very strong role to play in this adventure of the relay. And so we volunteered, Purdue volunteered to to lead the design of the torch. The design for the torch came from several sources, several ideas. One: the state asked us to have a torch that represents Indiana, so clearly the flag was a big help. And so there are 19 stars on the flag. There’s a torch on the flag. The shape of the torch is a slender base, a top that opens up into a burner section with a flame coming out. And so the students ended up designing a torch that really had that general shape. The question was where to put those stars? In the design class, in the spring of 2015, one student said how about the first ’13 states in the Union’ on the top ring…the next five states on that second ring right underneath…and then the 19th star – the 19th state – on the very top of the top ring, where the flame comes out, that’s Indiana. And that clicked for everybody in the class and I saw the design, I said, “this is fantastic.” the other requests or desire from the state, was to have a hi-tech torch. It has a camera that can take photos so still photos or videos. It has Wi-Fi capability. It had GPS as well, so that we could track it throughout the duration of the relay and know exactly where it is. I think the biggest challenge in the project was to fit everything we wanted to fit inside the torch…and that’s where the engineering students really went to great lengths. Even if we can make all this work, how do we fit all of it in the torch? And so, that was a huge lesson in communication, because I remember meeting with the Materials group and Electrical Engineering group every couple weeks and we would leave thinking we were on the same page, and then we’d do our own thing for a couple weeks, and we come back together under different assumptions and think, “well, no that can’t go there because we’re going to put this there.” And so, just that constant communication, all summer, making sure that as we were figuring out how things were going to work, that we still all fit together inside the torch. The flame was a big challenge for this torch…simply because, one: we needed to start deciding which fuel do we want to use. The best fuel that we could think of to represent Indiana was clearly E85… It is made in Indiana and we ended up with a mix of E 85 with a little bit of kerosene in it. And the idea of the kerosene was to bring a little bit of the yellow that you would expect from the flame. Our main target was December 11, 2015. That is when Governor Pence unveiled the first prototype of the torch which has the exact same dimensions of the one we ended up with for the relay. At the time, that torch was close to seven pounds – the target for the torch weight was under five pounds – that was a requirement from the state. So that 7-pound torch prototype ended up being a 3.5 pound torch during the relay with everything in it. The reduction in weight is highly due to the tremendous collaboration we had with Alcoa. Alcoa is a leader in technology with regard to the aluminum industry or cutting edge with development of new alloys. They’re typically aerospace-grade alloys. They’re designed to be used in airplanes and rockets. That’s the same technology that we applied for the torch. They donated the alloy and the Machine every single ring for every single torch. It’s 130 torches, 18 of those are fully functional. It’s a tremendous donation to the states from Alcoa. The torch relay started September 9th in Corydon, Indiana – the first state capitol – and then it went 37 days… 3,200 miles…2,300 torchbearers all across Indiana. President Daniels, who actually created the Bicentennial Commission during his time as Indiana’s Governor, carried the torch past John Purdue’s grave. The coolest thing about the relay, was meeting the torchbearers and seeing the people that the relay was all about. Meeting them and hearing their stories, made every challenge that we had ever had to go through completely worth it. Some of them would get a tear in their eyes. They ran in honor of a parent or a grandparent…we had children, we had adults, we had a 105 year-old woman, people of all different levels of abilities. We know this Bicentennial is about telling stories. How d o we maintain this this energy this year? All those people who saw or witnessed or participated will remember the torch in the torch relay, and they will tell those stories. And I think that’s what maybe is most important. It was a great honor to be involved with understanding Indiana a lot more. Being actually on the relay is one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done, because you can look at that and say, “I was a part of putting that together.” And it made me realize that I can’t just be any engineer – I always have to be on a project that helps other people. All 92 Indiana counties will receive a torch for permanent display…which will not only serve to commemorate 200 years of Indiana history, but as a reminder to all Hoosiers of Boilermaker ingenuity. That wraps up another Boiler Bytes. Be sure to check us out online at boilerbytes.com. See you next time!

Comment here