Family Helps Realize Inventor's Dream
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Chances are, you drive a car with an internal combustion engine remarkably similar to the first gas engine invented in 1876 by Nicolaus Otto. That's O-T-T-O. And that really bothered Carmelo Scuderi, a Massachusetts engineer with a lifelong passion to improve the engine.
Finally, a few years after he retired in the late 1990s, he did just that. Today, his children are trying to launch their dad's invention. It's called the Scuderi Air Hybrid.
Reporter Susan Kaplan has more.
SUSAN KAPLAN: Nick Scuderi, the youngest of Carmelo Scuderi's eight kids, says growing up with an engineer father was pretty cool like the day he got to skip school and go to work with his dad.
Mr. NICK SCUDERI (Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Scuderi Group): I remember sitting on top of a missile while he was inside of it, repairing the test equipment. And this guy comes by with a suit and there were people all around, engineers all around us and this guy comes by with a suit, hey kid, you know your dad is a genius. I'm like thinking - I just smiled. I remembered thinking myself, no, it's my dad, you know.
KAPLAN: Nick describes his dad as a family man who could balance a baby on his knee while tackling an engineering problem. Throughout his career, Carmelo Scuderi was convinced that the internal combustion engine could be redesigned.
He relentlessly pursued this even after he retired.
Another son, Steve Scuderi, a patent lawyer and also an engineer, remembers the day his dad called to ask him to come and look at yet another drawing. He skeptically agreed.
Mr. STEVE SCUDERI (Vice President, Scuderi Group; Patent Lawyer): I'd be darned I couldn't find any problem in the numbers that he presented. And so I said, okay, dad, shut the doors, close the windows, don't tell anybody anything until I protect this thing.
KAPLAN: Which he did. Today, the Scuderi air-hybrid engine holds six patents with more pending. The designs garnered awards and recently financial backing from Bosch Engineering. And the Scuderis are still looking for more backers to help fund their prototype.
(Soundbite of ad)
Unidentified Man: The breakthrough paired-cylinder design of the Scuderi engine changes everything, with a power stroke on every revolution and a built-in dedicated compressor.
KAPLAN: Sal Scuderi says his father's engine is truly innovative.
Mr. SAL SCUDERI (President, Scuderi Group): We called this Scuderi Air Hybrid because it has the ability to recapture and store energy that's normally lost. Your conventional electric hybrids use electricity to store the energy. We use compressed air.
KAPLAN: The Scuderis aren't alone in believing their dad's engine design could be revolutionary, but there are skeptics. Purdue engineering Professor Fred Mannering hasn't seen the design, but says the odds are stacked against the Scuderis.
Professor FRED MANNERING (Engineering, Purdue University): I mean, you have billions of dollars invested in the current technology. Of all the dissertations that are done at the great universities and stuff and you have to ask yourself, what is the probability that someone will come up with a revolutionary design?
But Steve Scuderi says his family is unfazed by doubters. He says his dad who passed away in 2002, was an inspiration even on his deathbed.
Mr. STEVE SCUDERI: He was talking on my brother Sal saying, Sal, I think I can come up with a better way to intravenous feed these things, you know. His mind was so amazing. He never stopped. He just never stopped being creative.
KAPLAN: And his kids with just the same conviction say they're not going to stop either until Carmelo Scuderi's lifelong dream to reinvent the internal combustion engine comes true.
For NPR News, I'm Susan Kaplan.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.