Tommy Styrvoky working at computer screen

Tommy Styrvoky ’19, Litchfield, Minn.
Major: ACS Chemistry

Tell us about your experience 3D printing a model of Saturn V in 1:60th scale.

When I came to Concordia as a prospective student, I greatly recall seeing a Saturn V rocket on display in one of the cases in the science building. I got the opportunity last year with Space Grant, a grant provider through NASA, to create a project entailing the Apollo 11 mission. I brainstormed with Dr. Berquó and we found a model for this project. We got the funding for it and I fabricated the model. It was quite an undertaking done over the course of about six months. It took about 300 or so hours of fabrication time on the printer. With this process, there’s some failure that occurs. This required redesigning many parts to improve the structural integrity and detail. There were around 600 or so pieces that had to be all manually cleaned, assembled, painted, etc. to complete the model. The completed model stands a little over 6 and a half feet tall.

This project has been a really cool way for me to express the skills I’ve learned through this research at Concordia. I have been utilizing the 3D printer with the physics department for over a year now. I’ve learned a lot of skills here, so I’ve been able to directly apply those to this project. That can reflect what I’ve learned as well as inspire others to become interested in 3D printing not only in the classroom but also as a hobby. There is a lot of untapped potential for 3D printing on campus in various STEM and non-STEM majors. I’m hoping to see this project create an initiative to make this an opportunity in more classrooms, allowing other students to learn these skills.

What motivated you to get involved in this project?

I wanted to inspire others. I really enjoy the spatial and geometric freedom you have with a 3D printer compared to traditional machining or fabrication methods. There is a lot of potential for it with many different applications and this project shows what can be possible to do with a 3D printer.

What were the main challenges you faced and how did you find solutions?

The nice thing with a 3D printer is that when you encounter a problem you can usually fix it yourself. I did not originally design the model for the rocket itself – that was to ensure we could complete this project within the time frame. Not having designed the original model ment, clearances and fitment of parts may not work from printer to printer. There were many parts that were pretty important to the project that I had to redesign. You go through a few trial and error periods, but eventually you get something that works. It is really gratifying to have it all come together in the end.

Tommy Styrvoky working with 3D printer

Why is this project important – both to you personally and for the broader community?

It represents a significant achievement by mankind. Dr. Berquó went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum last summer, and she brought back pictures of some of the models and components of the rocket that were there as a reference. This model itself is more detailed and at a larger scale than the one at the Smithsonian. Another goal of this project is to publicly display it for students and the community for this year’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which was the first time astronauts landed on the moon.

What are your biggest takeaways from this project?

Persistence. When you encounter a problem, take a step back and realize that you probably can solve it with the 3D printer. Patience is another thing. Some of these parts took an excess of a day to fabricate and, if you have a failure, you just have to realize that eventually you’ll get there.

Why did you choose to attend Concordia?

Part of it was the music program. The opportunity for me to continue music in college was important to me. I was also attracted by the small campus. The new science center had not been built yet when I visited Concordia, but it is a really lovely building. All of the opportunities I have had here continue to verify my decision.

Tommy Styrvoky standing next to 3D printed rocket

Have you had a favorite professor or class?

My experience when doing research with a faculty member is that you develop a really strong bond with your mentor. Collaborating with Dr. Berquó through my summer research and 3D printing projects was a really cool experience. I really appreciated getting that feedback and hearing her point of view on my ideas.

What are your passions outside of academics?

I’ve always had a passion for designing and fabricating things. Building scale models makes a project like this second nature. The finishing of this project involved quite a bit of airbrushing to bring out some of the details. Music is another hobby of mine.

What advice would you give to a prospective student?

Take advantage of all of the opportunities at Concordia. Encountering this 3D printer was something that the physics department did not know what to do with when they got it a year ago. I ran into Dr. Berquó when I was taking a physics class and I asked about the 3D printer. I basically opened up a whole new world of potential applications for the department’s 3D printer. Having these opportunities at the undergraduate level was really beneficial in guiding where I want to go with my future career.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning to work for 3M. They have many opportunities in chemistry and additive manufacturing. Using chemistry to improve different methods of 3D printing would be interesting. I want to combine my passions and skills I have learned at Concordia. It will be fun be doing something that is a challenge but also potentially very important for the future.