Firm of Drexel Engineers Lives Where Digital and Analog Meet

For fans of Oktoberfest, the yearly celebration of Bavarian culture, 2020 was a difficult year. After all, with pandemic precaution at the front of everyone’s mind, how can a vendor hand you a bratwurst at a six foot distance?

To the engineers at Oat Foundry, six feet — or even sixty feet — is no problem, thanks to their custom-designed pneumatic bratwurst cannon, 3d printed casing and servo operated parachute deployment system.

The sausage shooter is just one expression of the “we build cool stuff” motto embraced by the specialty shop, which was born out of a senior design project by Luc Tenthorey, Mark Kuhn, Sean Rossiter, John Halko, Mike Courtney and James Vescio, all Class of 2013 Drexel mechanical engineering graduates. From humble beginnings, the company has grown to become a full-service provider of innovative engineering solutions, specializing in product development and improving existing systems.

“We love taking an idea and making it a reality” says Jeff Nowak ’16, BS business administration, the company’s marketing director. “Our favorite application of this is at the intersection of analog and digital.”

That love is most frequently manifested in the creation of split-flap displays, similar to the old-style arrivals boards in airports and train stations. They’ve used the technology to create customizable menu boards for restaurants, displays for retail shops, and schedule boards for hotels. And, for the past two seasons, Fast Box, a device that uses a series of electromagnets to communicate information has helped the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive playcallling.

“We love taking an idea and making it a reality.”
Jeff Nowak ’16

“Coaches need to communicate information quickly over a long distance, and there’s so many regulations on how that can be done that it’s hard to innovate,” Nowak explains. “College programs started using these systems of cards with cartoon images on them to call their plays, but when they tried bringing that to the NFL, it became clear that rifling through all these cards to find the right one was too slow. That’s when the Eagles gave Oat Foundry a call.

Instead of a Split Flap style board, Oat Foundry developed Fast Box, a flip-disc display that can show up to 4 characters using a series of pixels that are turned on and off, like a digital alarm clock. The mechanism is entirely analog to meet the NFL’s requirement that play calling cannot be a digital screen. The box is carbon fiber, weatherproof, and can be read up to 90 yards away thanks to its high-contrast, two-color pixel system. The entire display can be powered by AA batteries that can last for multiple seasons.

Now that it’s been approved by the league, Oat Foundry is ready to produce for high school and college teams who want to use the technology.

There are countless channels that Oat Foundry sees themselves innovating in, all with a common theme: planet-bettering technology. "We are known as a Split Flap company" says CEO Kuhn, "but that is only a fraction of the story. Split Flaps, Picture Flaps, the Fast Box we made for the Philadelphia Eagles are all 100% recyclable, energy-sipping analog signage. We know the future of our innovations must focus on technologies that reduce humanity's carbon impact." But no matter where they go, the Dragon alums feel in control of their own fate.

You can follow Oat Foundry’s projects on theirYouTube channel, where they produce videos highlighting the steps that go into their work.

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