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Olin engineering students create cutting-edge prop for Wellesley musical

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  July 30, 2013 06:35 PM

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How many engineering students does it take to create an extendable Pinocchio's nose?

According to Needham's Olin College, the answer is two.

The pair of engineering students from the college raced against deadlines to build a retractable Pinocchio's nose prop for the Wellesley Theatre Project's production of Shrek the Musical after producers found the play's popularity among amateur groups led to a shortage of certain props.

Since the musical has only recently been released to amateur playhouses, there is a wave of interested producers vying to add the show to their season, which creates high demand on limited rentable inventories, according to a statement from the theatre organization.

Organization officials reached out to Olin engineering professor Aaron Hoover, who specializes in bio-inspired robotic locomotion and design, to see if he could help build the prop in time. Since Hoover was traveling, he referred the project to two of his students, Cullen Ross and Elliott Donlon.

After consulting with directors of the musical, Ross and Donlon set to work, using software to create a 3D model of the nose mechanism, and the school's 3D printer to make the piece out of polylactic acid.

“This has been a fun and challenging problem," said Donlon, a Honlulu, Hawaii native. "I don't think I've ever needed to put out a battle-ready design this quickly before.”

"I think what makes this project interesting is that it incorporates art, design, and engineering," said Ross, a Lafayette, Calif. native. "We're not just creating a mechanism, but also part of a character.”

The state-of-the-art nose can be seen in the show this week at Wellesley High School. Performances are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

For more information or tickets to Shrek the Musical, visit www.wellesleytheatreproject.org or call 781-235-1550.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourwellesley, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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