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College of Engineering builds fog machine from scratch for Long Beach Ballet

Engineering students spent four years working on the mechanical robot.

April+Walsh+%28middle%29%2C+Christiane+Breyer+and+Bob+Ward+work+on+The+Mechanical+Box+during+a+rehearsal+for+%22The+Nutcracker.%22++
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College of Engineering builds fog machine from scratch for Long Beach Ballet

April Walsh (middle), Christiane Breyer and Bob Ward work on The Mechanical Box during a rehearsal for

April Walsh (middle), Christiane Breyer and Bob Ward work on The Mechanical Box during a rehearsal for "The Nutcracker."

Zaina Cummins

April Walsh (middle), Christiane Breyer and Bob Ward work on The Mechanical Box during a rehearsal for "The Nutcracker."

Zaina Cummins

Zaina Cummins

April Walsh (middle), Christiane Breyer and Bob Ward work on The Mechanical Box during a rehearsal for "The Nutcracker."

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Standing a little over six-feet tall and roughly 1600 pounds, the Long Beach State College of Engineering students constructed a fog machine to use in the 36th annual production of, “The Nutcracker.

The play will be performed by director Dave Wilcox’s Long Beach Ballet Academy at the Terrace Theater in Downtown Long Beach.

About four years ago, Wilcox brought an opportunity to the LBSU College of Engineering to build a custom made fog machine for his 35-year-old play, “The Nutcracker.”

“Dave came to us and said look Bob, we need this,” said retired LBSU computer science professor Bob Ward. “He brought it to the attention of who was dean at the time for permission four years ago, and then to me. We have been working on it ever since.”

Coined The Mechanical Box, 10-12 students and faculty have have had a hand in this project.

It originally started as a senior project but experienced multiple technical difficulties. It will finally be making its very first appearance on Sat., Dec. 15 during the ballet company’s opening show.

“We have been making corrections and little tweaks on it for four years now,” said former LBSU student April Walsh. “It wasn’t ready to go out previous years so we want to make sure it doesn’t malfunction or put anyone in danger.”

The Mechanical Box is managed by a controller and driven strictly by a professional.

Its purpose in the show is to emit fog and drive the children involved in the play on stage. It also does a 360-degree spin and then exits the stage.

There have been over 100 man-hours put into this project and an estimated $4,000 spent.

“I’m very proud of my students,” said LBSU mechanical and aerospace engineer professor, Christiane Beyer. “Even April, she graduated two years ago and for her to come down and help us out on her own time means a lot to me, to all of us.”

Those who made this mechanical box are not receiving any type of pay or benefits and their work has been completely voluntary.

“I got us involved, so I figured I’d help out,” Ward said.

The fog machine will be placed in a giant storage unit until its next use.

“This has been stressful but fun. I think recent years it’s been more stressful than fun but it’s a big relief and accomplishment that I and the rest of the team are very proud of,” Walsh said.

For more information about how to become involved in the College of Engineering at LBSU, the visit College of Engineering website.

“The Nutcracker” will run from Dec. 15 through Dec. 23. A complete list of dates and ticket prices can be found on the Long Beach Ballet “The Nutcracker” website.

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