[00:00:09] Speaker A: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Purdue University's Make Your Story podcast celebrating student stories of making and creating new and exciting projects and innovations all over campus. My name is Dr. Annette Boheneck, and I work as an assistant professor and business information specialist at Purdue, and I am your host for today's podcast episode. As a librarian, I frequently see Purdue's library and information resources aiding in the research process that prefaces so many of these projects of making and creating. Today, our story of making comes from a Purdue Engineering alumnus, Matt Fitzgerald, who paid tribute to the university with his co creators in the form of a Penny Press. This episode tells the tale of his work in taking one of Purdue University's most iconic landmarks, the Bell Tower, and scaling it down to miniature form. I'm so delighted to share this conversation with you.
[00:01:07] Speaker B: So tell me a little bit more about yourself. What did you study at Purdue, and what years were you at Purdue?
[00:01:14] Speaker C: Sure. Great. So I'm Matt Fitzgerald. I am a 2020 Alum of Purdue. Graduated right in the middle of the Pandemic. They canceled classes right before we were supposed to graduate, which was a bummer, but I was there from 2016 to 2020. Graduated from st. Viter high school in arlington heights, illinois.
Went to Purdue and originally went into first year engineering. Started out in the engineering program, got into computer engineering, didn't really find it to be my type, and then switched over to Computer information technology and wound up getting degrees in Computer Information Technology.
Computer information technology systems analysis and design and a certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation from the School of Business.
[00:02:03] Speaker B: That is awesome. So you're definitely busy pandemic or not. So you definitely have a lot of great experiences.
[00:02:10] Speaker A: Wonderful.
[00:02:11] Speaker B: Well, one thing too that caught my eye, and which is definitely why I asked you on this podcast, is the Penny Press. And then so to our listeners, there are actually several instances where I was wandering through the Armstrong Building, and I so enjoyed seeing this Penny Press, sort of a miniature version of the bell tower we have here on campus at Purdue West Lafayette. And of all people, it turns out that you were the one who was behind the Penny Press project there. So I wanted to talk quite a bit about that, since it's such a unique item to have and just such a fun thing to have on hand as well here at the university. And so I'd love to hear more about kind of what inspired you to build this Penny Press.
[00:02:57] Speaker C: Yeah, definitely. Before I get started with all that stuff, I just want to say it was a very big team effort. I was one of the project managers on it. There was another project manager, Sedona she's awesome.
And we both kind of tag teamed it and worked together and made this entire project a reality. And the inspiration for this really came from the College of Engineering. We were celebrating the 150th anniversary of Purdue, and every school wanted to do something big to commemorate that special occasion and see what was kind of showcase the skills that the school can provide. So we got a request from, at that time, Dean Mung, to build something to commemorate that the College of Engineering delivered to the 150th anniversary. So we kind of got together. They just were like, we should build something. We should do something with this. And our group got together and somebody said, what about a bell tower? And through a bunch of design iterations and different meetings with folks like Dean Mung, we were able to make this thing a reality, which was awesome, and it was a huge undertaking, and we had great industry partners that helped us with it as well.
[00:04:16] Speaker B: That's awesome. And I definitely want to give your teammates a shout out as well. You mentioned Sedona. If you want to mention Sedona's last.
[00:04:24] Speaker C: Name, we'll give yes, Sedona Carey. Yes. There's a lot of folks on the team. I'm not remembering everybody's name right off the bat. I know Matt Grizzlow was on the team. There were a couple of other folks that really worked on that, and everybody throughout the couple of years that this project was active, as people were coming in and out of the project, everybody left their mark, which was really cool. And all of those different people were able to make something so awesome and so representative of not only the university that commemorates what's going on, but something that gives you a little bit of a souvenir, too. Probably the cheapest produced souvenir you'll get. Ever.
[00:05:07] Speaker B: So true. Yeah. I think we're all at least vaguely familiar with the old penny press, where if you happen to have $0.01 on hand, and sometimes it's a little more than $0.01, too, but to get that souvenir, where it essentially squishes the penny.
[00:05:20] Speaker C: And gives you a little design fifty one cents a whopping $0.51. But on the bright side, the money goes to tuition assistance for the university as well. So the money that came from that did go to tuition assistance, which was cool.
[00:05:37] Speaker B: That's so great. Excellent. And then so I guess my next question is the bell tower in particular, out of all the different places and points of interest on campus, we do have the bell tower, which is one of the big, I think, visual symbols for Purdue. There's a lot of history behind the tower. There's a lot of lore behind the bell tower as well. I'm wondering, why was the bell tower design your choice of design for this particular project?
[00:06:03] Speaker C: So that's a great question. And you do mention there's a lot of different things. Like, we have one of the few universities that have an airport. We have the Engineering fountain. We have Armstrong Hall, which is a beautiful building, the Union, so many things that are so saliently Purdue that it was a tough decision to figure out what to make. But we obviously chose the bell tower after a bunch of thought, and the reasoning for that came down to we wanted something to be interactive. If we would have done something with the engineering fountain, we probably would have had to actually do water, things like that, and people could get hurt. Other problems could arise from that.
And the bell tower was chosen because it was, I don't want to say an easy shape, but something that we could work with. We could put something inside of the bell tower. We could kind of transport it easier, and if we made anything real bigger, we already have to take it in two pieces to get it through doors. But if we made anything bigger, it'd be problem to transport.
[00:07:12] Speaker B: Got it. Definitely. And you mentioned at several other points of interest around Purdue. Were any of those, like, contenders, or did you have other contenders as far as the design?
[00:07:25] Speaker C: We had contenders. The engineering fountain obviously was our second choice from what we've seen, but we were struggling to find the interactive element of that, how we could make that interactive without either using water or lights or something like that.
So I still got my lights in the bell tower, but we were able to make the bell tower in a way such that it held the interactive thing inside. It was all self contained, and we wouldn't have been able to do that with other landmarks, per se.
[00:08:04] Speaker B: Gotcha. And you mentioned you had a lot of opportunities for collaboration within Purdue to help make this happen. Who were some of those collaborators for you that helped you realize this project?
[00:08:16] Speaker C: Definitely. So biggest shout out here goes to libraries because they helped out with a lot of the research for this project.
They made sure that we had all the information we needed on the actual bell towers, and I believe them and physical facilities also collaborated to actually get us the original schematics for the bell tower, the original architectural drawings.
And I don't think it was original per se, but at least a scan to send it to us so we could base our designs off of that.
[00:08:50] Speaker B: That's so great. You can get a nice view of all of it, right?
[00:08:53] Speaker C: It was awesome.
I still have the PDF just in one of those Purdue, kind of like my digital scrapbook from Purdue, but I was able to get a little print out of them, and I actually have it hanging in my basement. Right now because it's so cool looking and you're able to see all the measurements and all the way they were laying the brick and all of that stuff. It was fascinating to see.
[00:09:21] Speaker B: Wow. Yeah. That is so interesting. You got all those minute details through the original kind of plans for it. Wow, that's fabulous.
[00:09:28] Speaker C: Exactly. And that's one of the things that I really applaud about Purdue Libraries and the people at Purdue, if you have a question, you just have to go and ask them. People will be happy to help you find things and do the research. I mean, I'm an engineer.
I'm not a researcher very well. I'll do my researcher or my researching, but I'm not going to go through and spend hours and hours I don't know where to look. And even if it's just pointing us in the right direction, they helped out with that, and it's great. It was really beneficial to the process.
[00:10:06] Speaker B: Excellent. Well, yeah, that's good to hear. And again, just another strong argument for why it's so important to just preserve our history, for one. And certainly as a university, you never know when it'll come in handy for projects like this. Definitely.
[00:10:19] Speaker C: Exactly. And that's a big thing, too, preserving history. That's really what we wanted to do. One of the other things I did while I was at the university was preserve some of the train rails that were buried underneath campus since the 1880s from the old Lafayette railway that went through campus at a point. But it's another one of those things where all of the history, all of the beauty of Purdue, we really wanted to put into this bell tower and all of the people and the research we did to do that. In a very logical and correct way, I feel makes that penny press not only celebrating the 150th anniversary, but relatively timeless because the dies could be changed for other things and you could put it all over campus.
[00:11:10] Speaker B: Absolutely. Well, I'm sure you also had a lot of challenges along the way, too, in creating the penny press. What were some of those big challenges, I guess, that you encountered along the way?
[00:11:22] Speaker C: That's a great question.
The literal biggest challenge was figuring out how to get it through doors. Because when we were originally trying to scope out what this would have looked like, how tall it would have been, how we were actually going to build this thing if we directly scaled the bell tower down, I forget the exact height, but it was going to be something like 20ft tall. If we directly scaled it down and we had the cavity that we wanted to put all the mechanicals in, it would have been absurdly tall. It couldn't have fit anywhere.
So we kind of did a little bit of designing and kind of shrunk it down a little bit, so made it a little stubier than it actually is, but still able to get the essence of what was going on.
Our other big challenge was actually some of the folks that helped us design the die for the actual crushed penny. Unfortunately, there's like, one company in the US. That makes those, and they were backlogged at the time, and I think the one guy who did it got sick or something. And all I remember is it was down to the wire to get that stuff set up because we wanted it ready for Homecoming. And we were down to the wire. It was ready only a couple of days before.
[00:12:50] Speaker B: Wow. Who would have thought? My goodness. And out of sheer curiosity, where is this one company? Who's the one company?
[00:12:58] Speaker C: I forget the exact name of it. I know they're out east, I think they're in New York or Pennsylvania, but yeah, and it's a very generic name too. I'm so sorry. It might be, like, crushed Penny inc or something. Like yeah.
[00:13:15] Speaker B: Wow. Well, that in and of itself is also quite fascinating.
[00:13:19] Speaker C: Right.
[00:13:20] Speaker B: But for all those challenges, you did have some successes. So did you have a big breakthrough moment or a particular success along the way in creating the penny press that you remember or maybe are just quite proud of?
[00:13:35] Speaker C: This is going to sound so horrible.
While we were working on this project, we kind of had to keep it secret because it was not necessarily the public knowledge what we were doing with this. We wanted to make sure that folks kind of knew, hey, there's something cool that's going to be happening. And then they unveiled it at a big Dean's dinner. But as I was mentioning, kind of coming up to that, we worked on it in secret. And actually one of the people I forgot to mention earlier, kevin Hunkler, helped design one of the circuit boards for the lights and sound for the penny press. And in order for when you put in a coin, it makes a lot of lights and sounds. It plays the Purdue fight song, stuff like that. And he designed the circuit board for that and I was integrating it into the actual penny press. And I remember I'm in the storage room in Armstrong Hall on my back with a soldering iron about six inches from my nose with my head inside the penny press laying on my back with the top part on the ground. There was a little door opening and I had my head in there and I was soldering inside above my head. I'm sure the safety people would have had not a lot of nice things to say about to me with that, but looking at back on that, it was really fun.
And with that, that was kind of the final touch. Something had broken, I went and fixed it and then I tested it out and it just worked. And you feel the stress just kind of come off of you. You're just like, it works, it's done.
And at that point we were ready to deliver it to Dean Mung and debut it at the Homecoming dinner, which was awesome.
[00:15:27] Speaker B: Oh wow. And how was that? What was debuting it like and how was it received?
[00:15:33] Speaker C: Any that you're proud of? It was so incredibly scary. I remember that because I was on stage sedona was reading kind of like introducing the project and all of that stuff. She was at the microphone kind of talking and I was here standing next to on the other side of Dean Mung with this big obelisk covered in a tarp to kind of hide it. And I had it all powered on. I had everything ready to go and I was so nervous because I was still facing some of those issues. I got it working. It was relatively reliable but I could have done more testing just due to the lack of time.
There wasn't as much verification that I could have done to ensure it was working 100% correct. I was able to do that after the dinner luckily. But I was so nervous standing up there because I'm like, this thing is going to break. It's going to fail. It's going to embarrass me in front of 300 people that were in the audience. All the donors for the College of Engineering. I'm just going to be disgraced. Like this is it. End of my college career. No pressure. So yeah. And then we pulled the tarp off of it. Dean Mung went and was the first one to use it and made a penny and it worked. So it was just sheer jubilation at that point that it actually worked. Everything. This project that was almost three years in the making had been completed and it was incredible to see.
[00:17:08] Speaker B: Oh my goodness, what a story. Well I'm like stressed and happy for you at the same time.
Well hooray. Job well done on that front certainly now I guess with the penny press itself. So I think that's such a fun thing to create. Such a fun legacy to have here at Purdue. Which also kind of begs the question what are you up to these days?
What have some of your projects been since?
[00:17:36] Speaker C: Sure, yeah. So I'll kind of go into a little bit of what I do for work and then I'll touch on the projects. But right now I work for a company called Interra based out of the Loop in Chicago and I run all of their automation. I'm a lead DevSecOps engineer. So what that is is development and security operations.
Basically if you do any form of business process automation that's me. And I go through and am working with a lot of AI. Right now I'm developing in house AIS. I'm working on kind of streamlining business processes, reducing the cost to deliver services and basically helping people do their jobs more effectively. Interra is mainly a breach remediation contractor. So if a company gets hacked we work on that and also delivers help desk services so like companies can contract with us to be their It desk. And what I do that fits into that is basically make sure that people aren't working harder than they need to to fix these issues. If we have to push out something to 5000 computers. I can automate that using a script rather than people doing that by hand. So it's really interesting, and I enjoy that. As of recently, due to the security nature of what we've done, I'm actually a co founder of a startup called for check. And what we do is we actually work with cybersecurity, with companies, cybersecurity, to ensure that they aren't getting hacked again. In a lot of cases, we've noticed that people will get hacked and they don't actually fix the problem. They're so caught up in actually dealing with the hack, getting back in business that they're not actually going to go close the door to prevent people from getting in again. They might close the door, they might not lock it, or they might not put on a new lock.
So what our software does is we give what's called cyber resilience and allow companies to realize what happened and how can we prevent this from happening again.
So that's kind of what I do for work. Personally, I really enjoy making websites, designing things.
I mentioned lights and sound a little earlier. I'm working on a very large Christmas show right now, one of those blinking lights Christmas shows.
I love gardening. I have a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. But yeah, that's kind of what I'm up to outside of work.
[00:20:15] Speaker B: That's excellent. A lot of creativity along the way, definitely.
Well, I think one thing to show here, definitely within Purdue libraries, and I'm sure throughout the university too, we always try to encourage creativity and creation and try to inspire other people who are looking to create things, whether it's a podcast or virtual content or these more tangible projects like the penny press. Do you have any just general advice or words of wisdom that you'd like to offer other people making and creating around campus?
[00:20:49] Speaker C: Wow, that is a loaded question, because I could spend an hour just giving advice on how to do that. But I guess what I would say to people who want to go and make something is just go and do it.
I've noticed a lot of people that, so a little bit of background on me as well. I worked at the bechtel innovation design center on campus too, which specializes in doing exactly that, just going and making stuff.
So if you have an idea, head over there. Head over to whoever you know and go and make it there's people who are willing to help you do this, willing to help you with every step of the process, whether that's libraries, the folks at Bechtel, even people from epics purdue's engineering projects and community service, or industry partners. One of the great projects that I was able to work on while I was at Purdue is me and my roommate and my neighbor, actually from the dorm I was at, were able to design and build a complete 3D printer from scratch using all of the resources on Purdue's campus. We only had to go out and buy a couple of parts, and we obviously sourced those, but we were able to utilize a lot of the engineering staff to basically proofread our designs. We were able to use libraries to go and do research on different materials and all of the engineering specifications to make that, and we were able to basically involve the community. One of the greatest things about Purdue is it's a very innovative school. And, like, going along with that, if you meet somebody, chances are they have a very similar mindset. I know that's how I made a lot of my friends my freshman year was just being like, hey, I built this. And people are like, oh, that's so cool. And you kind of can strike up a conversation about that, and usually by the end of it, you have another minion to help work on your project. So that would be kind of some of my words of wisdom. Just get out and do it. There's plenty of resources available on Purdue's campus, and there's so much that Purdue can do to help you get that reality or get that idea into a reality.
[00:23:20] Speaker B: Wonderful. Well, I think this is a great time to wrap up and have anyone listening go ahead and get to whatever they need to go create and make. Well, thank you, Matthew, so much for spending time and sharing information about the Penny Press and your time at Purdue. Really appreciate it and wish you the best of luck with all the projects that you have going forward.
[00:23:43] Speaker C: Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate being on here. And just my last words, go and make it.
[00:23:50] Speaker A: And with that being said, the bell tower lives on campus on the ground floor of the Neil Armstrong Building in Penny Press form. For fifty one cents, you too can enjoy the fun of the Penny Press and take home a memorable memento. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Make Your Story podcast.
[00:24:09] Speaker C: You WAM.