FROM the Discovery Channel – Tuesdays at 10pm
Now known in Defense Department R&D circles as the “Wright Brothers of the Military,” identical twins Geoff and Mike Howe were just six years old they were already known as “Howe and Howe Construction,” although at this stage they were disassembling, not constructing. The experiments started with taking apart the toaster and trying to blow up things in the wood stove. At the age of eight, Mike and Geoff built their own one-room log cabin (on their neighbor’s property) with the hand axe their mom had given them for their birthday and two years later they created a robotic arm out of bike parts! At age 16, they started tinkering with vehicles, purchasing their first car, a 1974 Nova Super Sport, before they even had driver’s licenses.
Mike and Geoff both graduated from Kent’s Hill School, where Mike was a 4.0 student and the class salutatorian. Geoff was not far behind with a 3.8 GPA with the two-tenths difference traditionally explained away by the distractions brought on by Geoff’s more sociable life style. Both boys started taking AP classes as sophomores and Mike took on the additional challenge of college-level courses during his high school senior year. At Bowdoin University, Mike got off to a rocky academic start but eventually bounced back to work on independent study projects sponsored by NASA and NOAA. His major project involved the development of a highly efficient sonar signaling device to repel marine mammals from submerged fishing nets. This and other broad-based engineering experiences energized his boundless passion for creative vehicle design. Meanwhile, Geoff attended the University of Maine for a couple of years and then worked on a fishing boats before taking a job at the water treatment plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MEETS MAD MAX
Around 1996, after they had had enough of conventional lifestyles, the twins got back together and started their own rock and roll band Two Much Trouble. As things turned out this was the turning point for their custom build mania.It seems the guys couldn’t settle for an ordinary performance venue so they made their own mobile music club by customizing a school bus with a hydraulic setup that lowered one of the bus walls to form a stage. While working as traveling musicians – and continuing to pay the bills working on fishing boats – the brothers still found time for a new favorite hobby: building custom cars and off-road Mad Max buggies with nicknames like T-Rex and Godzilla. More importantly, the vision of inventing the world’s fastest tracked vehicle finally took hold.
The world’s fastest tank was born in 2001. After lots of hard work developing a high performance prototype, Geoff and Mike realized the potential of the Ripsaw and decided to enter it into the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. Unfortunately, funding became an issue and Ripsaw only achieved semi-finalist standing. But the next year, Howe and Howe Technologies was one of three teams (out of 168) from the DARPA Grand Challenge chosen to attend the Washington, D.C. Auto Show to display their technology. Ripsaw turned out to be a main attraction drawing serious interest from U.S Army officials with ARDEC (Army Research Development Engineering Center). Not long after, H&H acquired a contract with the support of senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to build Ripsaw prototypes for the United States Government. Ripsaw MS1 (mil-spec), an unmanned ground vehicle, was built in 2008 for ARDEC to equip with a light remote-controlled weapons system. After the Ripsaw vehicle system successfully passed a series of tests at Aberdeen Testing Center in Maryland, the program continued in 2009 with the build of additional manned and unmanned versions of the tracked vehicle. Ripsaw MS1 was featured in the June 2009 issue of Popular Science magazine as invention of the year. On September 9, 2009, the Ripsaw – with NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip behind the wheel – opened a race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio for for “Prelude to the Dream,” a charity event for fallen or injured soldiers and their families. Specifically designed as an armed Unmanned Ground Vehicle for the U.S. Army, the Ripsaw may well be destined for future combat deployment.
Two years earlier, in 2007, the procurement company Civil Protection Services contacted Howe and Howe Technologies about building a manned, bullet-proof tracked vehicle with a width of only 32 inches. After just a week of preliminary design, H&H gave it the thumbs up. H&H designed, engineered, fabricated, tested and completed the first prototype christened the Personal Assault Vehicle 1 “Badger” in record time. In 2009, H&H completed a second Badger (the PAV1.2). Designed to enhance officer safety in SWAT and Law Enforcement applications, the Badger will be featured in the 2010 Guinness Book of Work Records as the world’s smallest tank.
Completed in 2009, the SR1 Subterranean Rover is an extremely rugged all-terrain vehicle designed to withstand the harsh environment of coal and precious metal mines, while offering a safe, comfortable ride to its users. Featuring a durable frame, a powerful low emission diesel engine and enhanced shock-absorption capability, this new vehicle should replace the less reliable Humvees that are commonly used today. One of the key features of this vehicle is its simple modular construction that makes maintenance simple and inexpensive. The first SR1’s have been so successful that over 20 more vehicles have been delivered or are on order with major mining operations.
In 2008, the Military Channel aired the show Backyard to Battlefield which followed Howe and Howe Technologies preparing their Ripsaw MS1 prototype for its first demonstration for the U.S. Army. The brothers and their vehicles also made an appearance on the Science Channel program “The Future Of…” which Geoff and Mike consider their best on screen performance so far.
Howe and Howe Technologies and Ripsaw have been highlighted on Fox News twice. Bill Hemmer from America’s Newsroom interviewed Geoff and Mike for a live update on the progress of the Ripsaw program and the Popular Science article.
And H&H has also begun work on a “Top Secret” build for a major film studio. That’s all we know for now, but there’s likely to be a wild ride courtesy of Geoff and Mike in an upcoming Hollywood movie.
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