A quieter leaf blower? These undergraduates found a way.

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Nate Greene, an engineer at Towson’s Stanley Black & Decker calls the innovation “extremely atypical.”

A group of students from the Johns Hopkins University signed onto a class project and were tasked with building a new product for the multinational tool company. And they actually did it.

Using a campus 3D printer, a team of four seniors at Hopkins designed a new attachment for leaf blowers capable of quieting some of the harshest decibels of a blower’s sound.

“The university’s focus is so theoretical,” said Greene, who advised the students on their design. “So to find a group that understands the right ways to apply that theory right off the bat … The team has been not only good at the content they’re working on but good at just working through changing projects.”

The attachment is a cylindrical nozzle that allows most of the air from the blower to pass through but directs some of it into thin, helical channels, dampening the high-pitched whine typical of the neighborhood nuisance.

The students chose to target the most annoying part of the blower’s sound, said Madison Morrison, one of the mechanical engineering majors who helped create the design.

“We knew that if we could improve the noise quality — even though, obviously, with a blower system, it’s hard to completely eliminate noise — it’d be at least a more pleasant experience for your neighbors trying to sleep in, or yourself even as the user,” she said.

Michael Chacon, 22, shows one of the prototypes of a helical cap he and three other Johns Hopkins University seniors created for a yearlong senior design project. The device is placed on a leaf blower tube and reduces the noise. The attachment has been picked up by Stanley Black & Decker for manufacturing. (Kim Hairston/Staff)

On the cusp of their graduation, the students filed for a patent, and the invention is on its way to manufacturing at Stanley, expected to hit store shelves in about 2026, Greene said.

“The design is super unique. We haven’t seen really anything like this in the industry,” Greene said. “The design is patent-pending, which is a huge step.”

The students developed their prototype for a specific DeWalt electric blower, Greene said. Now, the company is evaluating whether their attachment could work for other blowers, too.

When the students began working on the project last August, their mission was simply to quiet the blower. They weren’t sure how they’d accomplish it.

At the outset, they had different options, including taking an “active” or “passive” approach, said Michael Chacon, one of the students on the project. The former would be akin to noise-canceling headphones, which generate competing sound waves to cancel out noise. The latter would be similar to a gun silencer, which doesn’t cancel out the sound but dampens it. They chose the latter, hoping it would be easier to generate, prototype and install on the blower.

Once they decided they’d create an attachment made of a type of plastic, they began testing different designs in the 3D printer. Their first iteration was shorter in length and had different shaped channels but already showed promise, Morrison said.

“We were like, ‘Wow, this design has so much potential,’” Morrison said. “Going from that drawing board to ‘this is in my hand and kind of works’? Honestly, that is such a great feeling.”

By the end of the project, they’d created more than 40 different prototypes in blue, red, green orange and pink using campus 3D printers. Among the considerations was balancing the performance of the blower with the performance of the noise cancellation, Morrison said.

“If you just slap a muffler on here, well, you’re probably not going to blow many leaves,” Morrison said.

Under the program, Stanley Black & Decker will have the patent, Greene said. The students will not profit from the design but will be listed as inventors, an invaluable resume-builder for young mechanical engineers, Greene said.

For their part, the students were thrilled that their idea might turn into a real product.

“It’s really exciting to see that something that we made in this class is actually likely going to go to market,” said one of the students, Andrew Palacio. “It would have been really easy for this project to not go anywhere. I think it’s pretty rare for even some of the better projects that students make to actually become a product.”

Even if they don’t have yards, the students might find themselves buying leaf blowers a few years from now, said one of the students, Leen Alfaoury.

“You could put it on one of those museum clear glass stands,” she joked.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.