Jasmine Meumier, 10, of Montral watches as the Gizmo sculpture moved the billiard style balls through the turns and tunnels.
Members of the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum are working quietly behind the scenes to keep the iconic mechanical “Gizmo” chugging along at the Champlain Centre Mall.
“We took on the project of bringing it back to life a year ago and now we’ve been working hard to keep up with it,” said Lisa LaFountain, director of fundraising and membership at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum (CVTM).
Gizmo, or known to some as the “Ball Machine,” is a large working mechanical sculpture that visitors to the mall can sit and watch as the mechanical arms push billiard-style balls down chutes and metal wires and through various obstacles to come to a stop at the bottom, only to travel back up to the top via a bike chain elevator to take the journey once more.
The Gizmo has been an attraction at the mall since the Centre’s opening in 1986. It was created by George Rhoads, who is better known for his large audiokinetic sculptures that attract and engage people throughout the world. In his sculptures, Rhoads strives to make his mechanisms easy to understand in order to demystify technology. His machines have no use other than to engage people in their play, according to a press release by the CVTM.
“The kids have to come and see it every time we come here,” said Greg Sakata of Lake Placid. “We have to watch it for at least 10 minutes or so, they love it.”
Sakata’s four kids each pick their favorite colored ball and watch as it’s taken to the top of the mechanical sculpture and wait to see whose ball makes it to the bottom first, Sakata said.
Dave Napolitan, general manager at Champlain Centre said the CVTM has done a great job bringing the machine back to its glory days.
“It has always worked but it was in a degraded state when the museum came in to help,” Napolitan said. “Not all the components would work in unison as it should be.”
Napolitan said the partnership has been a win-win to keeping the iconic sculpture in working order.
“The Gizmo has been at the mall since it opened, it is definitely something people who remember watching it as kids are bringing their kids to see,” Napolitan said.
LaFountain said the partnership has been made possible by the work of Anthony Vaccaro and Dick Jenkins, two mechanical engineers with the CVTM. LaFountain said Kaman International Technologies and Jeffords Steel of Plattsburgh have donated many of the parts needed for the Gizmo.
The “Gizmo,” was adopted by the CVTM last year. In the coming months, LaFountain said the CVTM will begin the process of repairing and restoring the entertaining machine and hope to generate an increased awareness.
Currently the museum is seeking the donation of used balls, similar to billiard balls, to roll through the Gizmo’s many twists and turns and tunnels.
“They are similar to billiard balls. If you have any you would like to donate to the Gizmo revitalization, please let us know,” LaFountain said.
Anyone interested in contributing to the “Gizmo” restoration can drop off contributions at Champlain Centre Mall in the museum donation box located next to the “Gizmo” or by mail to the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum at 12 Museum Way, Plattsburgh, NY, 12903.
For more information visit cvtmuseum.org or contact the museum at 566-7575 or champlaincentre.com. Follow the “Gizmo” project by liking Champlain Centre’s Facebook page.