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They ‘Can’ and They Did: West Palm Beach Turns Food into Art

Employees In The Community

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If you think building the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, the F-35, is difficult, try building one with canned goods. Diane Ryberg, engineering design analyst, Compression Systems Engineering, and her West Palm Beach colleagues had a difficult mission. Using cylinder objects, specifically canned tomatoes and tuna, they built an F-35 aircraft. 

“We’re used to dealing with jet engine parts,” Ryberg said. “Dealing with cylinders and trying to make an airplane look like an airplane using only cylinders was a little interesting.” 

The plan to build the aircraft went high-tech. 

“We started using a computer-automated-design (CAD) drawing. Diane Ryberg did a lot of work,” said Lance Charles, design engineer, Hot Section Engineering. “You’re using CAD drawings to show the different levels and the levels help us determine how we are building it in stages and you literally have the footprint of the cans, each can’s dimensions, so you know how they are going to look in the model and it actually turns out looking the same in real life.” 

Pratt & Whitney participated in “Canstruction,” a project to benefit and raise awareness for the Palm Beach County Food Bank. Competing against other companies in the area, employees had to create a sculpture based on a “Field of Dreams” theme. Sculptures were built and displayed at the The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. 

“At the end of the day, I like to joke the winner gets pride out of this,” Charles said. “But really, it’s the people, the families, who get the food from the cans that truly benefit from this.” 

More than 4,500 cans were used to build the airplane. A few hours later, after the first can touched cool tile, there was art. 

“It’s 110 percent engineering,” Charles said. “You have to be very creative.” 

Creativity paid off, as Pratt & Whitney’s creation was selected as the “People’s Choice Award” winner. True, it will never fly, but knowing this exhibit is helping feed the hungry makes employees’ spirits – soar. 

“It says a lot about Pratt & Whitney,” Ryberg said, “it’s what we’re all about.”