The Picker Engineering Program’s Mechanics Playground lab received a new addition last week—or, half of a new addition. That is, half of a Mazda rotary engine was donated to the Mechanics Playground, a classroom full of educational engineering-related miscellanea in Ford Hall.

The half-engine donation was coordinated by Dean Case, communications officer at Mazdaspeed Motorsports, the high-performance racing vehicles division of Mazda, the global automobile manufacturing company.

“Students already study the familiar piston-and-cylinder engine to learn about mass and energy flow, stresses on parts, and thermodynamic cycles,” explained Susan Froehlich, Picker Program lab supervisor. “The rotary (or ‘Wankel’) engine accomplishes the same thermodynamic cycle, but in a novel way, in which the air-fuel mixture is swept in a circular pattern to compress and combust, rather than the linear motion of a piston.”

An engineering student will modify the Mazda engine, using machinery in the Center for Design and Fabrication, in order to display it as a motorized working demo model, ready for classroom use in the fall, said Froehlich.


The rotary engine consists of a rotor housing, a rotor and an output shaft.


The Mazda half-engine allows students a clear view of its exposed interior components.