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Coming Soon to a Toy Store Near You

If you have ever tried Double Dutch jump roping, you know it takes three people to play. But what if there wasn’t anyone else who wanted to play? That was the problem Tahira Reid, a senior mechanical engineering major, faced in third grade. Tahira conceived of a machine that would solve her problem, but it was not until her second year at Rensselaer that she could actually finish the design and build it. The solution is called the Automatic Double Dutch Turner. Reid and her Rensselaer classmates just received a patent for the device, which is composed of four mechanical arms moving two ropes in syncopated rhythm.   

Reid brought her concept to life in 1997 through Introduction to Engineering Design (IED), a sophomore design course in which students work together on interdisciplinary teams and design and build devices to satisfy needs that they have identified.   

Bill Foley, clinical associate professor in decision sciences and engineering systems, heads IED with the help of Burt Swersey, lecturer in mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, and mechanics. Swersey also teaches Inventor’s Studio, a course that helps students shape their projects into commercial products.   

Reid and her mechanical engineering teammates—Colleen Conlon, a junior; Tom Manning, a senior; and MBA candidate Zafer Mustafa—are currently enrolled in Inventor’s Studio. They are exploring design options for the Automatic Double Dutch Turner to lower manufacturing costs.   

If the design is licensed and sold, Rensselaer, which holds the patent, will distribute 75 percent of the income to the inventors.   Reid’s team received a National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) grant for $10,000 in December 1998 to cover costs of building an advanced model and applying for a patent. In March 1998, NCIIA invited the team to participate in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.   In Washington, Reid’s Automatic Double Dutch Turner received national attention. A representative from the American Double Dutch League said the device could be a useful tool for conditioning competitive jumpers.

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