Students and faculty collaborate to build first mobile Campanile model

Foldable representation of model


Through a first of its kind project, a group of faculty and students at Iowa State are trying to capture the history, symbolism and tradition of the Campanile and share it with those beyond the university.

This group is working on building the first ever mobile model of the Campanile.

The mobile Campanile-Carillon Model will be 20 feet tall when fully standing. It will be equipped with a 27-bell playable carillon. The model will be used at university events such as alumni gatherings, sporting events, graduations, concerts and more.

The model will allow for accessible playing of the carillon and let those who aren’t familiar with the instrument experience it.

This project has been in the works since spring 2015, when Tin-Shi Tam, Cownie professor of music, originally conceived the idea. Following two-and-a-half years of work by students and faculty, construction on the model’s structure is set to begin in the coming weeks.

Even from the project’s early stages, it has been a collaborative endeavor spanning multiple departments and colleges across the university.

Tam originally approached James Alleman, Cerwick faculty professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, to discuss the feasibility of constructing the Campanile-Carillon Model.

After discussing initial ideas, Alleman decided to enlist the help of Jim Heise, senior lecturer of mechanical engineering.

“They approached me and asked me if I’d be interested. Being an Iowa State alumnus, I’m interested with anything to do with the Campanile,” Heise said. “It looked like an excellent project to pull into the [mecahnical engineering] capstone program.”

Heise is the director of the mechanical engineering senior capstone program. This program gives students the chance to work together on projects for professional clients.

Tam has been serving as the client for this project. Her specific vision for the Campanile-Carillon Model meant that certain criteria needed to be met through the students’ design.

The model has to be transported in such a way that it doesn’t get damaged. It will be made of three detachable sections which will allow for easier transportation. These sections have to be large enough to house 27 bells, but the model as a whole needs to fit in elevators and through double doors.

When lowered, the model’s middle façade section measures six-and-a-half feet tall. When raised, it is 20 feet tall. The model’s stability in outdoor conditions also needed to be accounted for, so it can withstand strong winds without toppling over. 

“Because this [project] is one of a kind, we never had any prototype or anything that we can base it on to make this work. Everything is from scratch,” Tam said. “There’s a lot of engineering they had to look into to make sure it fits into our criteria.”

“We have to make sure it’s stable, safe and reliable, which makes for an excellent engineering challenge for us,” Heise said.

In spring 2016, the first mechanical engineering students started working on the project through the Mechanical Engineering 415 Mechanical Systems Design capstone course. This group consisted of 10 students divided into two teams.

One team worked on the design of the model’s structure. They settled on using a square-lift mechanism to raise the façade. The other team designed the method for transporting the model.

In fall 2016, a group of seven students took over the project through the Mechanical Engineering 466 Multidisciplinary Engineering Design course.

Patrick Keep, 2017 ISU graduate in mechanical engineering, was part of this team.

“We were in charge of unifying the work that was done by the previous groups [from fall 2016],” Keep said.

Much of this work involved making changes to the model’s structure.

The most significant change was replacing the square-lift mechanism inside the façade with a scissor lift. The scissor lift improves the stability of the model and reduces the amount of time it takes to raise the façade.

In spring 2017, a new group of five students worked on the project through the same Mechanical Engineering 415 course. Additionally, they made adjustments on the inner-workings of the structure such as rearranging the bells, reducing the height of the façade and adding additional framework to support the façade.

This semester, another team of five mechanical engineering students are working to solidify the final structural details as well as the chosen method of transportation.

This semester’s mechanical engineering students are also collaborating with civil engineering and architecture students to design the façade to look just like the Campanile.      

“Each semester has done their little touches to [the design] to try and perfect it,” Heise said. “It’s been a wonderful project for the mechanical engineering students to work on because it challenges them in the area of structures, alternative materials, mechanisms [and] linkages.”

The plan is for the model’s structure to be built by the end of spring 2018. The bells will then be installed in November of that year. By the end of 2018, the entire Campanile- Carillon Model will be complete and ready for use.

While mechanical engineering students were focusing on the design, Tam has been working to raise the money needed to purchase the bells and materials to build the model. In total, they need $210,000 to cover all the costs. To date, they have raised around $145,000.

In spring 2017, Tam established the Student Carillonneur Leadership Council. This university recognized student organization functions to bring awareness for the project and raise the necessary funds for the model. When the model is eventually built, the council will coordinate the logistics of how it is used through university events and outreach.   

Casey Cunningham, senior in finance, serves as the president of the council. With his finance background, he has played a major role in bringing in the necessary funds.

They currently have opened a crowdfunding platform through FundISU to receive donations to help toward the completion of the project.

“[You can] be involved with it in any shape or form, whether it’s [donating] a dollar, if it’s [with] your time, or if it’s [sponsoring] a bell,” Cunningham said.  

“It’s not our model, it’s the university’s model,” Cunningham said. “We just want everyone to be involved in it because everyone will get the chance of using it. We want as many people involved with it so that it impacts a lot more people.”

Cunningham emphasized the importance of how the model will be representative of Iowa State.

“It speaks highly of our students and of how our faculties are leading our students to become innovative and excellent in every single manner,” Cunningham said. “They can do something that’s never been done before. Because it’s unprecedented, they have faced a lot of challenges but they are overcoming it, and they are going to make something so amazing.”

To donate to help toward the completion of this project, visit their FundISU page.