Friday, July 11, 2008

The Howe Brothers

Ripsaw Showcases Local Brothers’ Talent
By Joe Hessert
Staff Columnist
Identical twin brothers Mike and Geoff Howe have been building things together since they were children growing up in Augusta. “We were always taking stuff apart and putting things together,” said Mike in his office at Howe & Howe Technologies located on route 236 in Eliot. “We really didn’t receive toys as kids,“ added Geoff with a smile, “we got tools.”
Their first project together of any size was a log cabin that they built when they were eight.
And now the brothers have a new project. The federal government, at the urging of Senator Susan Collins, has invested three million dollars to support the Howe brothers as they develop, construct, test and procure their 6,500 pound robotic “Ripsaw MS-1” vehicle that does zero to 50 mph in 5.5 seconds and has no problem hurdling over sand dunes or crashing through small buildings.
Designed to work by remote to scout out combat zones and keep American troops out of harm’s way, the Ripsaw MS-1 (which underwent its first public test run at a site in Lebanon this week) is the product of years of hard work for Mike and Geoff, who started collaborating on it in 2000 before they had any financial support.
“We both had day jobs when we started working on it,” said Geoff, who mortgaged his house to help purchase materials to build their original Ripsaw.
In a way, though, this project started long before 2000. Both of the Howe’s grandfathers served in the military and their paternal grandfather, Sydney W. Howe, was wounded in north Africa when his troop carrier exploded. “He went into the service at 18,” said Geoff, “a great looking, strong young man.” And while he survived the explosion, Sydney was horribly disfigured.
“I love the Ripsaw,” said Geoff, “But blow it up. Blow up twenty of them if it will prevent one proverbial knock on the door for the mother of one of our soldiers.”
And with any luck that’s exactly what the Howe’s vehicle will do: save the lives of American troops.
Having the support of Senator Collins and the federal government has allowed their project to progress to the completion of MS-1 (Military Spec 1) – the first of three phases of development, the toughest of which will be getting the vehicle ready for procurement where it will have to pass a rigorous assault of tests at the US Army Aberdeen Test Center, the premier test facility in the world.
“The vehicle is built. That’s the easy part,” Geoff joked.
But he and Mike couldn’t be more serious about seeing this project through and bringing jobs to Maine by contracting Maine companies to build Ripsaws for the Department of Defense.
In the meantime, said Geoff, it’s satisfying to take the Ripsaw out of the garage for test runs. Seeing what he and his brother have built together this time – watching the vehicle in action and witnessing what their creation is capable of doing – is his favorite part of the job.
For more information visit or to speak with Mike or Geoff call 439-0990.

Caption:Mike and Geoff Howe stand with the Ripsaw in progress. (Weekly Sentinel photo)