92-year-old La Crosse man using engineering passion to stop pollution
Inov-8 International founder Harry Foust continues to build devices that solve environmental problems
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – There are problems in the world and communities rely on people to solve them. Problems are easy to come by. It’s the solving part that takes a little brainpower.
Pennsylvania native Harry Foust wields that power.
“I do have 22 patents to my career,” he said.
Foust takes a lot of pride in those 22 original thoughts. He has another device that stands alone in the history of the United States.
“So I’m proud of that,” he said.
Foust turns 93 years young in November and his work is his retirement. He has experiences to share. He’ll tell you about his time served in Guam shortly after World War II.
“I was out in the sun and lost all the pigment in my arms and shoulders and back,” Foust said. “I have to wear a full shirt all the time when I’m out in the sun.”
His reward was money for a degree.
“I earned a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).”
He worked at Ford Motor Company before coming to La Crosse.
“I came to work for Trane,” Foust said. “I worked there twenty-some years.”
In the 1990s his desire to create inspired his current company Inov-8 International. They started designing burners to heat business shops.
Today, Inov-8 designs burners that eliminate oil from business wastewater to avoid polluting the environment.
“We’re trying to clean up the earth,” Foust said.
Foust has a history of achieving what most cannot.
“One of my early things I did as a student of MIT, took pictures of a 30 odd 6 bullet in flight,” Foust said.
The technology was a little less advanced back then.
“I astounded MIT itself,” Foust said.
Childhood was an adventure for his five children.
“That movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” was our life growing up,” said Rebecca Faas, Foust’s daughter.
Faas said her father’s latest idea doesn’t look like much on the outside.
“Basically it’s a box that boils water,” she said.
However, business owners have dreamed of owning this stainless steel engineering art.
“The guy that’s buying this told me that he searched the world over for such a device and was only able to find ours,” Faas said.
They currently have two of these devices in the Panama Canal.
“Take off the bilge water that collects in the ships,” Faas said.
They are shipping one to a car dealership in New Hampshire.
This device helps places like car washes, car garages, and other businesses get rid of toxic wastewater.
“This device has skimmers in it,” Foust said. “It will skim the oil off. Then we use the oil in the flame to help boil away the water so all the environmental hazard part of it has gone away.”
There are other ways to dispose of wastewater.
“You can go out to some field someplace and dump it but it’s going to come back and haunt somebody sometime down the road,” Foust said.
That method also costs money. This machine evaporates that expense.
“It costs less than a penny per gallon to evaporate this dirty water,” Faas said.
Developing something that’s one of a kind takes quite the brain. There are plenty of textbooks and environmental lectures that highlight problems. It is people like Harry who complete the equation with a solution.
“Anyone anywhere can do these things,” Faas said. “This has mostly been done in a garage or small facility.”
Foust said people can accomplish anything they set their minds to. He encourages young people to go to pursue the sciences and help solve more problems in the future.