123456 A_Blinding_Flash_of_the_Obvious
Faiola's enthusiasm for the University's resources is readily apparent. Since 1991 he has acquired two patents and currently has two more pending. To develop these products, he worked with students from the University's Soling Program, a multidisciplinary initiative that pairs students with staff and faculty on creative projects. "It's always rewarding to work with students because they bring such a fresh approach," says Faiola, a self-described "master tinkerer."

"I learned a lot of things from the project—how the patent process works, and a heck of a lot about clocks."
      Faiola and Crase also worked with Richard Chave and John Kotlarz, senior experimental machinists in the College of Engineering and Computer Science who built the Stir Station prototype. "They helped us out immensely, especially machining the cap and with the electronic circuit we needed," Crase says. "They were very patient with us."

      His first patented product—a rapid-chilling system—was designed to safely cool such liquid-based foods as chilis, soups, and sauces, and combat what Faiola calls "time-temperature abuse specifically related to the slow cooling of food"—a danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees where bacteria can grow and cause food-borne illnesses like salmonella. Any time foods are cooked and then cooled for future use, there's a risk of food-borne illness if the food isn't chilled quickly enough. "I wanted to create something that was simple and practical and could be used without much problem," Faiola says. "This is just a tool—another utensil like having a knife or a spoon. Certainly it's specialized, but it doesn't take up the space of a blast chiller (high-speed refrigerator), and you can wash it, rinse it, and sanitize it effectively."
      The Rapi-Kool, as it's now known, is a large hollow plastic container with a handle. It is filled with water, frozen, and then stirred in the food. Jack Kennamer, president of KatchAll Industries International Inc., a Cincinnati-based company that specializes in food-safety products, was immediately attracted to the invention and obtained a license to commercialize it. "It didn't take me long to realize the product was unique," Kennamer says. "We did take a huge gamble because it was considered pretty cutting edge at the time, but it seemed so simple and made so much sense that we went ahead and took a shot at it." And that shot is now paying off. In the past year, Wendy's International Inc. ordered a specially designed version of Rapi-Kool for all its franchises to cool chili.
      Faiola then turned to improving the Rapi-Kool—namely, automating it to increase the device's efficiency and eliminate the drudgery of stirring by hand. The result: the Stir Station, a motorized attachment that turns the Rapi-Kool.
      In creating the Stir Station, Faiola teamed up with Chris Crase '97, who, at the time, was an aerospace engineering major and Soling Program participant. Crase, now a software engineer in Colorado, had a background in restaurant cooking, and understood what Faiola wanted to create. The two brainstormed on the design and Crase went to work building the device. He ultimately came up with two versions—one motorized, the other spring-driven. "I started tearing apart clocks and all sorts of things to figure out how spring-driven ones work," says Crase, who is credited as a co-inventor.

      On the board above his desk, Faiola has several more ideas listed for food-safety products. Last spring, a four-member Soling Program team helped Faiola devise a wireless temperature monitoring system. With some assistance from Crase, he also conjured up an innovative flatware soaker. There are now working prototypes of both inventions and he has filed the paperwork for patents. Faiola constantly mines such ideas through his past experiences in the restaurant industry and as a caterer. He also spends time during summers in the foodservice industry, working and observing. "I always ask myself if there's a better way to do something. There's a tremendous amount of technology, and you have to figure out a way to bring the complexity down and make it simple," he says. "A lot of people look at the Rapi-Kool and are amazed by how simple it is. I like to call it a blinding flash of the obvious."

Walk into the Center for Science and Technology and the future is now. After all, consider the research of professors Robert Birge, Joseph Chaiken, and Elizabeth D. Liddy. While Birge and Chaiken explore revolutionary ways to store information in computers, Liddy advances the field of information-retrieval technology.
      Birge's vision of the future evolved out of a Cold War technology first investigated by scientists from the former Soviet Union. It centers on a complex, light-absorbing protein known as bacteriorhodopsin (bR). Found in the membrane of a salt-marsh bacterium, bR is incredibly efficient at converting light into chemical energy and has real-time holographic properties. Birge's fascination with the protein dates back to the late seventies, when he was at the University of California at Riverside studying a similar protein, rhodopsin, found in the retina. Two decades and three patents later, Birge and his team of researchers at the W.M. Keck Center for Molecular Electronics are on the verge of introducing the computer world to a three-dimensional memory employing the purple protein packaged in a cuvette. It is an intensive task that requires melding technology on several fronts, ranging from genetic engineering and computer interfacing to laser technology. The protein has even been sent up on space shuttle flights to probe how it responds to low-gravity manufacturing.


Continued on page 4
Continued on page 5
Continued on page 6
Continued on page 7
Back to page 1
Back to page 2

Main Home Page Winter 1998-99 Issue Contents
Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks In Basket
Pan Am 103 Architecture at 125 Inventive Minds
Multi-Majors Quad Angles Campaign News
Student Center Faculty Focus Research Report
Alumni News/Notes View From The Hill University Place

E-mail the magazine
E-mail the web guy
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040