Last updated: November 05. 2013 4:43PM - 339 Views
JOAN MEAD-MATSUI Abington Journal Corespondent

Joan Mead-Matsui | The Abington JournalDonald H. Kieffer
Joan Mead-Matsui | The Abington JournalDonald H. Kieffer
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Looking for examples of some inventions that have made a difference in the world?

Donald H. Kieffer said, “I tell children and students to look at the bridges they travelled across. Look at the design. All of that came from the background of physics and math. For example, PennDOT has a couple of bridges that are made out of plastic. They also have automatic de-icing systems on bridges in rural areas that when the temperature and certain environmental conditions drop to a particular point, censors will automatically turn on salination equipment that will spray the roads. The use of calcium solutions they put on the roads now, in preparation for a storm coming, comes from not only physics, but also from chemistry. It prevents the roads from icing prematurely. It helps to prevent black ice.”

Over the years, Donald H. Kieffer’s physics and math background had everything to do with things he built and the success of many of the projects he worked on.

Kieffer grew up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm, but said when he was young, his objective was “to go to college to get away from the farm.”

His lifelong fascinations with science, specifically physics and chemistry, and a strong aptitude for math, were the foundation for his career as a teacher and many of his hobbies and projects.

“I was always interested in science,” Kieffer said, “but I wasn’t able to get into a lot of the activities, because I was always needed at home on the farm.”

Currently, he is a retired high school and college teacher and lecturer. Locally, he taught at Abington Heights High School, Scranton Preparatory School, Wilkes University, and the Penn State University Worthington Scranton Campus.

He is founder and director of the Northeast Pennsylvania Bridge Building Competition, established in 1994 and held at the Viewmont Mall, Dickson City the second Saturday in February. The 2014 contest will be held Feb. 8.

Kieffer said the competition is open to all public and private high schools in the northeast quadrant of Pennsylvania, and students in grades nine through 12 are invited to participate.

“The bridge building competition is designed to encourage youth to consider careers in math, science, engineering and technology,” he said.

Student inventors may visit the bridge competition website, neparbdgblg.com, to learn more.

Outside of his teaching career, a few of his projects and hobbies include plumbing, carpentry, masonry, stained glass art, and chair caning, but his pride and joy is an “invention,” a car, he built with his son Warren from 1986 to 1990.

“Our son, who was probably about 10 when I started building it, helped me,” he said. Warren also used “a lot of the physics” Kieffer taught him in rebuilding the hydraulic systems and some of the wiring on an MG Midget and Jeep, and the body and mechanical work on a 1976 FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Not sure if you have what it takes to invent or design something?

“Don’t give up on yourself,” Kieffer said. “You are capable of doing more than what you think you are capable of doing.”

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