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Last updated:
May 31, 2002

UW-RF Student Builds the Core of a Jet Engine

By Khrysten Darm
UW-RF News Bureau

Ever since Tony Dabruzzi of Hudson was a youngster he's been obsessed with jet engines.

This spring, as a graduating senior at UW-River Falls, he took the unusual step of building one for a capstone course. It was Dabruzzi's first jet engine, and the first known to be built at the University.

After he graduated from Hudson High School in 1997, a friend introduced him to the Experimental Aircraft Association. When he came to school at UW-River Falls, he decided to convert his passion for engines into building one for himself. So in 1998 he bought a partially completed experimental airplane. The original blueprint called for a 150 horsepower piston engine, but Dabruzzi wanted to find a 150 horsepower turbine engine.

"My budget as a college student prevented such a purchase," he said. "While I was price shopping online, I stumbled across the Web site of a guy that built his own gas turbine engine." Dabruzzi recently graduated from UW-RF with a degree in geology. Instead of following the traditional route and take a geology senior seminar class, he decided to enroll in the physics seminar instead.

For his class project, he decided to build a similar engine to the one that he found online. Over the course of a year, Dabruzzi collected parts and perfected his creation.

His project had two phases: to design and build a gas turbine engine, and to design a tachometer for determining the turbine's speed. He accomplished both tasks.

Faculty members in both the physics and geology departments were willing to let Dabruzzi try an unusual approach to completing his major. "The attitude of faculty in both departments was very supportive of the plan to switch senior seminars," he said.

Better yet, the engine was also relatively inexpensive to build.

"The estimated cost of building the project was $2,000 to $3,000," he said. "With the help of my friends in the business, I spent $500 to $600."

His father, Tom Dabruzzi, served as his assistant, while he said that his girlfriend helped him out by "putting up with me spending all of my time working on the engine."

Although Dabruzzišs class is over, he intends on working on the engine. He would like to put in a panel-mounted tachometer and make some other modifications to the rest of the engine.

Dabruzzi hopes to be accepted to the Navy and attend flight school. Dabruzzi's other alternatives are to either attend school to become a commercial pilot, or to pursue a masteršs degree in geology.

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