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DENTON, Texas – A remarkable and diverse array of engines, each telling its own tale of design and innovation, has found a new home at the University of North Texas’ College of Engineering. The Pettinger Engine Collection, comprised of over 500 engines, parts, and mechanical artifacts, promises to serve as a nexus for educational and inspirational encounters for STEM students.
Located at UNT’s Discovery Park, the collection boasts scale model engines which once breathed life into model aircraft, cars, and boats. Among the notable items is a 1934 Maytag washing machine, powered by a kick start gasoline engine, several vintage outboard boat engines, and a classic 1965 Honda motorcycle – artifacts meant to inspire awe and curiosity.
Wes and Hedwig Pettinger’s generosity is the catalyst for this magnificent educational resource. Wes, an engineer and entrepreneur, spent 30 years assembling the collection, a testament to his lifelong passion for combustion engines. He believes that by unraveling the stories behind these machines, students can extract valuable lessons to shape future innovations.
The collection graces The Pettinger Center for Design and Innovation, a 7,429-square-foot space equipped with state-of-the-art tools and technologies, offering engineering students a conducive environment to manifest their creative and innovative potentials.
Nathan Scammel, a UNT mechanical engineering senior, likened the collection to a “window to the past.” According to him, the intricate designs and ingenious engineering of these historical engines could sow seeds of inspiration, leading to technological advancements in the future.
Hedwig Pettinger, a UNT alumna, expressed the couple’s vision of the center as a communal space, hoping that the collection would act as a springboard for students’ creative endeavours. To extend the reach of this educational treasure, over 50 engines from the collection are earmarked for educational outreach, set to ignite young minds in local K-12 schools and grace public demonstrations and museums.
Digitization efforts are underway to make the collection accessible via UNT Libraries’ Portal to Texas History, allowing enthusiasts and scholars globally to delve into Texas’ rich cultural and historical heritage.
As the College of Engineering marks its 20th anniversary at UNT this fall, Dean Paul Krueger conveyed his excitement about the Pettinger’s gift. The collection stands not just as a repository of historical artifacts but as a vibrant ecosystem where the past and present converge, sparking innovations that will illuminate the future of engineering and technology.