Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu

Putt-Putt boats bring out the best, and worst

Posted on Mar 18, 2005

Eric Jacobs '05 and Chris Lewis '05 launch their boat

The final competition of the mechanical engineering senior design seminar featured tricked-out bathtub toys from a century ago: putt-putt boats.

In an event on Tuesday that looked rather like a swim meet, students circled a kiddie pool, cheering loudly for each other, and against their professors. As one heat finished, Prof. Ann Anderson announced the next wave of contestants, who eagerly prepared their boats at the starting line.

The “Putt-Putt” Boat, a favorite toy of the late 19th- and early 20th-century, uses a primitive steam engine powered by a candle flame. The boat is propelled as steam flashes out the tail pipes, condensed steam pulls fresh water back into the boiler, and the cycle starts again, giving the boats their characteristic sound.

Closeup of a Putt-Putt boat

Anderson was introduced to the boats when her mother got some for her children. She appreciated the engineering and decided to use them in a course.

Today, the boats are mass produced from recycled soda cans in countries where labor is cheap. They cost about $7 in the U.S. through various web sites.

But the engineers were tasked with a major redesign that used only the power source of the matchbox-size toys. They had to design and build a new hull from ABS plastic using the College's prototyping machine, a 3-D printer. They were judged on speed, cost, payload and operating temperature.

Marc Donovan '05 celebrates victory over a faculty boat

“At least the professors aren't competitive,” said one student, sarcastically, as Prof. Brad Bruno lowered the faculty entry into the water.

Bruno and Prof. Phil Kosky had reengineered a dream boat complete with dual candles, a thrust vector to control direction and pitch, camphor on the hull to break the surface tension of the water and a large aluminum shield to block the heat detector that would determine their operating temperature. The two professors noted that their consulting fees for such a project on the outside would have run in the thousands of dollars.

Their boat went straight and fast.

But in a run-off, another boat hit theirs and sent it off course, allowing a third boat to cruise across the finish line.

The students erupted in cheers, one commenting, “Who needs a Ph.D. to run a boat?”

Read More

Hull honored by downtown Schenectady group

Posted on Mar 18, 2005

President Roger H. Hull was honored for his work, leadership and vision in the redevelopment of Schenectady at the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation's 3rd annual Building Block Party on April 6 at at the Stockade Inn.


The annual event celebrates the ongoing revitalization of the City and County of Schenectady and honors individuals and organizations that have played a significant role in this resurgence. Hull received a Special Recognition Award.

“Roger Hull is truly a visionary whose work to create a vibrant future for Schenectady has clearly reaped many benefits,” said DSIC Executive Director John Samatulski. “A multitude of initiatives can be associated with Roger's leadership, including Schenectady 2000, Metroplex, Seward Place, the swipe card program for downtown businesses, and the culminating project – transforming the former Ramada Inn into College Park Hall. We are tremendously grateful for his efforts.”

Others honored with Building Block Awards were:

·        John McDonald & Family – McDonald Engineering, Pinhead Susan's and The Stockade Inn

·        Irene Prazak – Volunteer and advocate for the revitalization of downtown Schenectady

·        Donald Stracher, Michael Roth and Frank Gilmore – Stracher-Roth Gilmore, Architects

·        Schenectady County Community College

·        Greg Salomon & Marc Renson – Ambition Café, Parcel Post Plus and Skinny & Sweet

·        John Eoff – The Photo-Lab, Inc.


Read More

Alum James Mann brings 3N2 to Sch’dy

Posted on Mar 17, 2005

Baseball and softball footwear maker 3N2 will create new corporate headquarters at a vacant building at 309 Union St. in Schenectady, N.Y., Mayor Brian Stratton and the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority announced.

The building, which contains both office and warehouse space, is in a state Empire Zone. Metroplex will provide a $125,000 low-interest loan to help finance improvements to the new headquarters and costs of moving company operations to Schenectady.

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said 3N2 founder James Mann, a Union College graduate, is returning to Schenectady to run his company. 3N2 currently has distributors on both the East and West coasts, and in Asia, Australia and Puerto Rico.

3N2 expects to employ 20 people at the new location within three years.

Terms of the company's lease were not disclosed by Metroplex.

Mann is currently at spring training, trying to line up celebrity endorsers for its athletic footwear. It has signed Rickie Weeks, the No. 2 selection in the 2003 baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, as an endorser.




Read More

Union men’s swimmers competing at NCAA Championships

Posted on Mar 17, 2005

Junior D.J.
Hogenkamp (East Aurora/East Aurora)
and senior and Michigan native Elliot
Seguin (E. Lansing, MI)/Cranbrook-Kingswood)
begin competition today in the
2005 NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships in the Holland
Community Aquatic Center in Holland, MI. Hope College is the host for this
event. Hogenkamp is competing in the 50 freestyle in Heat 1, while Seguin is
slated for Heat 8 in the 50 free. The 50 free is the fourth event scheduled for
the opening day of the meet. For the latest results throughout the
championships, check out the NCAA Championship web site:

Read More

Alumni brings business to Sch’dy

Posted on Mar 17, 2005

A Union College graduate will open a corporate headquarters in Schenectady's downtown for his baseball footwear distribution and sales business.

James Mann, 41, will use a $125,000 low-interest loan from the Metroplex Development Authority to improve the building at 309 Union St. and support 3N2's relocation.

The company is located in temporary quarters at 1338 Union St. Mann launched 3N2 – which stands for a full count in baseball – in 2001 in Newton, Mass. Before that, he worked for Nike and Stride Rite.

The privately held company manufactures baseball and softball shoe products and accessories for professional, college, high school and youth league play. It has distributors in eight states and two foreign countries.

The company had gross sales of between $350,000 and $500,000 in 2004, Mann said. Its goal is to capture 2 percent of the $5 billion sports apparel market, he said.

Mann will bring two employees to the 309 Union St. site and hopes to add eight more within the next year. The jobs will be in management and labor. “Down the line,” he said, “we will bring in manufacturing of other products, but not footwear.”

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said Mann had considered placing 3N2's corporate headquarters in several other cities before settling on Schenectady. “Some of his partners wanted to locate to a more metropolitan area,” Gillen said.

Mann said he selected Schenectady because of his strong ties to the area.

“One of my ideas was to bring it back home. I see Schenectady coming back again and I want to be a part of that,” Mann said, speaking by phone from Arizona. He is there conducting sales meetings with Chicago White Sox team officials and other Major League Baseball officials.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton said Mann's decision to stay in Schenectady “is a sign of the renewed confidence and faith” in the city. “It's a key building and spreads more of our redevelopment between downtown and Little Italy.”

The building at 309 Union St. is vacant and requires extensive renovation, Gillen said. “It's perfect for them. It has offices and warehouse space,” he said.

Mann has a long-term lease on the site.


Read More