3D shops manager brings personal touch to the job

Senior Lecturer Rebecca Aloisio

Joe Allgeier, manager of the 3D design shops and studios in the College of Art and Design, with a 3D-printed model of his Respirator to Accommodate Facial Hair prototype. He is pursuing a patent for the design.

Artifacts and mementos line the perimeter of Joe Allgeier’s office, breathing equal parts personality and inspiration into the space. 

There are the 3D prints of famous Michelangelo sculptures, projects he made with his son, and the well-crafted spoon-and-box set a student gifted him. Design and other reference books fill a shelf topped with the rooster-and-turtle bookends he sculpted to accompany a children’s book he wrote. Laser-cut designs inspired by Harry Potter are nestled beneath a shelf near work former students have made. 

Allgeier, adjunct faculty and manager of the 3D design shops and studios in RIT’s College of Art and Design, often calls on the objects to trigger new ideas for his teaching and personal work.

“I surround myself with all the things that are important to me and have influenced me,” he said.

Allgeier is an educator, maker and Jack of all trades for the College of Art and Design, where he has started teaching foundations classes over the last year.

After earning a BFA in sculpture and an MA in art education, Allgeier taught high school art. While in his current role, he pursued an MFA in industrial design, graduating in 2020. The degree enabled him to continue teaching, now at the college level. 

“My enthusiasm for a topic is kind of contagious,” Allgeier said. “I get excited about something and then my students get excited about that thing. When I see students have that ‘a-ha’ moment, that gets me excited.” 

A particularly powerful “a-ha” moment came after observing one of his students struggling early in their first semester. But dramatic growth followed, leading to the student executing projects worthy for showcase in the college’s display cases. 

It was even more rewarding for Allgeier because of the personal touch his teaching style requires.

“I make personal connections with students,” Allgeier said. “I get to know what they’re interested in beyond what they make in the classroom and that’s useful. It’s nice to be that mentor and voice.”

Allgeier considers himself a lifelong learner, an ambition that drew him to the industrial design MFA program. He started his graduate studies keen on incorporating digital technology, like computer-aided design, into his workflow. He exited with a thesis project he is currently pursuing a patent for. 

Allgeier, an advocate for shop and art studio safety with a collection of RIT OSHA Education Center certificates to prove it, designed the Respirator to Accommodate Facial Hair. The thesis work was in response to a market devoid of a fairly-priced respirator capable of making a skin-contact seal through a beard. 

In his research, Allgeier found shaving is a prerequisite for a proper-fitting protective facial covering. His design ensures an airtight fit without the need for users to alter their appearance. 

Respirator to Accommodate Facial Hair is the seminal product of RESKO Safety LLC., a startup company focused on safety gear that Allgeier began with Nick Bober ’21 (graphic design) and Bhalakrishnan Shankar ’22 MS (industrial and systems engineering). They have used campus resources like the Student Accelerator Program through the Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to develop their business plan. 

It’s been an eye-opening journey learning about the business side of a subject Allgeier is passionate about.

“If at some point I say, ‘This is my life’s work, I wouldn’t be unhappy with that,’” he said.

The rest of Allgeier’s portfolio includes handmade toys, lamps, cigar-box guitars, beer taps and menu boards for local eateries and breweries (which can be found at The Playhouse/Swillburger and Stranegbird) and thoughtful work for community organizations. He also designed and fabricated ceremonial maces for commencement ceremonies at four of RIT’s international campuses (Croatia - Dubrovnik and Zagreb, Kosovo and Dubai). 

One of Allgeier’s memorable projects was collaborating with Professor Juilee Decker, director of the museum studies program, and students on the creation of a memorial exhibit for local homeless shelter House of Mercy. 

Allgeier laser cut chickadee silhouettes that students added decorative elements to. The team then engraved the name of one of the shelter’s deceased residents on each chickadee and placed them on boards Allgeier made for permanent display.

This summer, Allgeier is a mentor/coach for three teams participating in Studio 930, a multidisciplinary studio that pairs students with a community partner to design access and health technology products.

He spent two previous summers participating in the program as a graduate student. The experience working alongside engineers and real-world clients to create a more inclusive world had a lasting impact.

“Engineering language is very different from designer language,” Allgeier said. “Both are critical to making something functional that can physically exist in the world. Working together on a team to come up with a finished product and reaching a goal is so worthwhile.”

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