A voice for toys

Bill Jacobs, ME’64, is fluent in at least two “languages.”

“I tell people I’m bilingual,” he says. “I can work in metal and plastics.”

ChattyCathyThat ability has served him well in his career, including his time at Mattel from 1968 to 1973.

The toy manufacturer wanted to use the voice device in its Chatty Cathy doll for other, smaller toys, but when it was scaled down, the mechanism was too small to work effectively. They called on Jacobs for a solution. Basing his design on a phonograph, Jacobs developed a planetary drive system with a 10-to-1 drive ratio. Working with Mattel’s model shop, they started building the device on a Thursday and had two working models — out of three made — five days later.

The invention — patent No. 3627329A  — was assigned to Mattel with Jacobs as the inventor. He has four other patents in other fields.

Mattel used the planetary drive in a toy steam engine that “had a whistle and a chug-chug-chug” sound, Jacobs says. It also went into a book that would tell you the contents when opened. The best part for Mattel was that the original Chatty Cathy mechanism cost $1.25 to make, but Jacobs’ design cost less than a quarter.

“I was the go-to guy if you wanted to take the cost out of making a toy,” Jacobs says.

Around the Puck

Q&A: Miners got game

What was the most memorable sports team during your time on campus? As part of his research for the S&T 150th history book, Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, asked you to share your memories. Here are a few of your answers.

[Read More...]

Honoring new academy members

In October, 12 alumni and friends were inducted into Missouri S&T academies. Academy membership recognizes careers of distinction and invites members to share their wisdom, influence and resources with faculty and students. Some academies hold induction ceremonies in the fall, others in the spring.

[Read More...]

Boosting cyber-physical security

A wide array of complex systems that rely on computers — from public water supply systems and electric grids to chemical plants and self-driving vehicles — increasingly come under not just digital but physical attacks. Bruce McMillin, professor and interim chair of computer science at Missouri S&T, is looking to change that by developing stronger safeguards […]

[Read More...]

MXene discovery could improve energy storage

In spite of their diminutive size, 2-D titanium carbide materials known as MXenes are “quite reactive” to water, a discovery S&T researchers say could have implications for energy storage and harvesting applications such as batteries, supercapacitors and beyond. Their findings were published in 2018 in the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry.

[Read More...]

A faster charge for electric vehicles

One drawback of electric vehicles (EVs) is the time it takes to charge them. But what if you could plug in your EV and fully charge it as quickly as it takes to fill up a conventional car with gasoline? Missouri S&T researchers, in collaboration with three private companies, are working to make speedy charging […]

[Read More...]