A Reptile Rendition

A Reptile Rendition“May we borrow your triceratops?” When Yale’s Peabody Museum mounted a dinosaur exhibit for school children during winter vacation, an official called Erik Dawe ’02 with that question.


The math and physics major from Newtown, Conn., had been building a life-sized model of the dinosaur skeleton for nearly two years in his free time. He had begun it on a whim?“I thought it would be a fun project; I figured I’d put it on my parents’ lawn,” he says.


“Bill” (named after his grandfather, an inventor and Erik’s mentor) the beast was made of heavy-duty plywood, paint, and iron, and resided mostly in Erik’s parents’ garage, which was his work place. In addition, though, Bill benefited from his creator’s Wesleyan life. Dawe turned to the staff of the university’s machine shop for welding assistance. “I really appreciated their friendliness and expertise,” he says.


David Heiser at the Peabody Museum heard of Dawe’s work through friends. He was sufficiently intrigued to call about the reptile rendition.


“He called me on a Thursday and wanted it for that Sunday. I said, ?Sure,’” Dawe recalls, “although I knew I had at least 40 hours of work left to do on it, along with my classes and papers. I had to paint it and fit it together, and when I painted the parts, that changed the fit, so I’d have to sand down the joints and paint it all over again.” To expedite this process, Bill moved in with Erik, and housemate Steve Scribner ’02 pitched in.


Once they were sure Bill was ready, they dismantled the beast, packed him into two vehicles (Land Rover and station wagon), carted him to New Haven, and reassembled him on site.


Schoolchildren loved Bill, who looks similar to a giant three-dimensional woodcut of a dinosaur skeleton. They filed eagerly through the exhibit hall, where Bill had to be roped off so small viewers would resist the urge to scale his ladder-like back.


“It’s great that so many people got to enjoy him,” Dawe says. “I never thought he’d get this much use.” After these two weeks of fame, Bill is again residing on campus, in Dawe’s basement, although he is available for another gig most any time (contact Dawe at edawe@wesleyan.edu). As for Dawe’s parents, they can now put their car in the garage again.


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