April 18, 2022

Media advisory: SIU engineering students display working water-powered rock saw

A working replica of a Roman water-powered rock saw built by students in an innovative program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be on display Tuesday, April 19.

The demonstration will start at 11 a.m. behind the SIU Engineering Building, adjacent to the boat dock and pavilion on Campus Lake. SIU engineering students who built the machine as part of the university’s unique, interdisciplinary ancient practices program will be present to discuss the project. The machine will be operating and available for inspection for a few hours. SIU Chancellor Austin Lane is expected to attend beginning about 11:30 a.m.

Along with the students, various university faculty and staff will be on hand for the event, which features an authentic, reciprocating saw powered by a water wheel and gears. Anna Quarries, a Southern Illinois business, sponsored this year’s project.

The ancient practices program grew out of a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2019. It focuses on broadening the perspective of students studying objective disciplines – such as science, engineering, technology and mathematics – by demonstrating the relevance of the humanities to their own interests. The program leads to a minor in ancient practices. 

Last year, the class displayed two similar machines – a grain mill and a water-lifting “pump” – based on ancient technology.

For more information, contact Mont Allen at montallen@siu.edu or 618-303-6553.