YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The loud, piercing sound of a shift-change whistle used to be common around the Youngstown area, but now it can be heard once again at Youngstown State University.
Five students in the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) program at YSU designed and built a whistle, one that people might have heard at the football games.
The whistle is located at the Beeghly Center end of Stambaugh Stadium because that’s where a steam line runs. The steam is what helps make the sound.
“Once it hits that part on the bell, it will push steam directly on there and push it in and out,” said Adrian Heston, who helped build the whistle. “With it doing that, it causes a turbulent effect in there, which makes the bell resonate and it creates your sound.”
Kelsey Kridler also helped build the whistle. She says it’s a sound you can feel the sound deep in your chest.
“That’s the only way to have a whistle. You want other people to hear it no matter how far they are.”
The students, plus MET professor Daryl Gross, named the whistle “The Spirit of Youngstown.” It was the students’ final project before graduating with an MET degree.
For as long as the steel mills operated around Youngstown, steam whistles were part of the daily operations. They signified both shift changes and emergencies, and had to be loud enough to be heard above the noise of the mills.
“The whistle was just a part of the culture,” Kridler said. “It was just a true historical sound, and we really wanted to bring that back.”
The first problem the group encountered was that there were no instructions on how to build a shift whistle. So, they went to a collector.
“He gave us an old shift whistle that we were able to take apart and reverse engineer,” Gross said.
Most of the pieces, including the valve, electronic control system and mount, could be bought. A good portion of the whistle was raw material that the students had to machine, weld and build from scratch.
The group decided to place the whistle outside Stambaugh Stadium and make it a new tradition for football games, blowing it after touchdowns and before third-downs for the visiting team.
“It’s really something I can be proud of and, someday, show my family and my children that this was something I was a part of,” Kridler said.
Heston says they didn’t think it would be such a big hit, starting with “just five kids trying to graduate from college.”