Barney Kedrowski, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc., fondly remembers when his dad brought an old Thunderbird engine home for Barney and his brother to play with and learn from. That memory inspired him to build his own open engine learning tool to help young people understand the fundamental operation of an internal combustion engine.
Using spare parts from a 1929 Model A engine, Barney built what he calls an "open running engine" that illustrates how an internal combustion engine works. Even better, he's left one of the four cylinders intact and the engine actually runs! Here's a video of Barney demonstrating the engine:
The experience of building and demonstrating the open engine has been very rewarding for Barney:
"Here in central Wisconsin we are blessed with many farm and car shows that I attend and meet hundreds of people while displaying my open engine. This display has made me an interactive exhibitor. When demonstrating this engine, people’s first impression is that it is a non-running engine; just a static display to show the inner workings of an engine. To their amazement, I tell them that is a running engine. This part is half of the fun for me…to hear their responses. One lady said, 'How can it run? You don’t have enough parts!' Another guy said, 'You’ll seize it up for sure…you don’t have an oil pan! For goodness sake, you don’t even have oil! I have got to see this…when are you going to start it?' (he was a car enthusiast). When you have someone with this much enthusiasm, you can’t turn them away. I told him, 'For you, the demo starts now.'
"I have many antique engines, but this open engine is my favorite engine to start. The engine has electric start, but I rarely get to use it; everyone wants to see me start it with the hand-crank. With gas in the carburetor, drip oiler and coil on, I move the timing to the 'Start' position on the distributor, and with a quick lift of the hand-crank (and with my thumb in a safe position), the engine is running. Most people are stunned to see how fast the pistons and valves are moving, and that the crankshaft is moving and running on its own power. I tell spectators to move around the engine so they can see how it works from all angles before the engine overheats and I have to shut it down to cool off.
"Demonstrating the four cycles of a gas engine to the public, and especially to an inquisitive young person, is rewarding in itself. To have so many people appreciate what I am doing is amazing; they appreciate the fact that I’m doing this on my own time and am not getting paid for it. I do it because I enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to share my knowledge with others. I challenge you to be more interactive at your local shows…the public has questions - we have answers. Share your wisdom with the curious and you are guaranteed a rewarding experience at the shows."