From the New York Times, February 20, 2015

LINING the steep flagstone steps to a glass-walled house in a rocky, tree-shrouded neighborhood near Washington are two- and three-inch-thick twisted branches of an invasive vine that strangles the area’s hardiest oaks and sycamores. Seth R. Goldstein and his wife Paula Stone tear it from local woodlands and shape it into railings for the steps and into sculptures they show at community art exhibits.

At the top of the steps to the right of the door they have attached a replica of a red-crested pileated woodpecker. A retractable cord from an expired vacuum cleaner hangs from the woodpecker’s tail. Pull the cord, and the beak moves back and forth, striking the wall louder than any doorbell.

A 75-year-old, 5-foot-5, 120-pound sparrow of a man comes to the door. With four degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Goldstein calls himself an engineer. Most of what he makes moves. The American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, which is exhibiting one of his works, calls him a kinetic sculptor.

Thirteen years ago Mr. Goldstein retired from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where he was a biomedical engineer. He owns or shares in 12 patents. One innovation is a supple spaghetti-thin catheter that a surgeon guides into an inoperable brain tumor to deliver chemotherapy, while minimizing side effects and damage to other tissues.

These days in his basement workshop, Mr. Goldstein makes machines that lack any commercial or — with the exception of the woodpecker — functional utility. But his work has purpose. He is pushing the envelope of engineering and hoping to stir the imaginations of young engineers to push their own envelopes.

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