Torches Unveiled for Macomb County’s Bicentennial Relay

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May 25, 2018
Macomb Community College faculty, staff and students collaborated to design and fabricate the commemorative torches

On June 21, when County Executive Mark Hackel hoists the torch and kicks off the Macomb County Bicentennial Relay from the county administrative building in downtown Mount Clemens, he will not only be carrying a torch bearing symbols of Macomb County’s distinguishing characteristics, but also a symbol of learning, partnership and collaboration.
The specially designed bicentennial torches represent nearly eight months of collaboration and work by Macomb Community College faculty, staff and students representing three program areas: media & communication arts, machining and climate control.
“We were honored to be asked to contribute in such a meaningful way to Macomb County’s Bicentennial Celebration,” said James O. Sawyer IV, president, Macomb Community College.  “To us, it spoke of a great trust and pride in Macomb Community College’s faculty, staff and students, as well as confidence in the quality of our programs. We knew it would be a great learning experience for the students involved, but the cross disciplinary project also led to deep learning and appreciation of each other’s challenges and triumphs for the faculty and staff involved.”
The project involved working in teams organized by expertise and engaging in group communications and meetings across the disciplines that took the project to a much higher level. The process for creating what will be eight commemorative torches for use during the two-day relay started with research on the history of Macomb County and on designs of commemorative torches, including previous designs of Olympic torches.
While those in the media & communications arts program began convening to conceptualize the design elements of the torch, climate control began evaluating and testing existing commercial torches that could be used as the core so that the project could focus on the design and manufacture of the torch carrier.  After testing a half-dozen systems for applicability, durability and safety, the torch “guts” that prevailed burn a plant-based, smokeless liquid fuel in a steel shroud.
The initial torch carrier prototype was constructed in cardboard, providing a tangible proof of concept for team members that led to further iterations and refinements, both in design and materials. Originally, plans called for manufacturing the carrier out of metal, but evolved due to weight considerations as well needing a material able to handle detailed design elements. As a result, the top of the torch is produced in polymer through 3D printing. The torch’s handle is constructed of renwood, a man-made composite used to create prototypes in the machining process -- which still provides sufficient durability to support the torch crown and stand up to being held during the relay -- while eliminating weight.  Due to the lack of painting facilities on campus, Macomb Community College, who has a strong relationship with Warren Consolidated Schools career and technical education programs, enlisted teachers and students in their auto body program to provide the finishing touches to the torch.  
"The faculty, students and staff at MCC have created a spectacular and functional work of art," said County Executive Mark A. Hackel. "Not only am I looking forward to carrying this but also placing one on permanent display at the Macomb County Administration Building. I hope to see lots of residents along the route cheering our torch bearers on."
The final torches are 28 inches high, 7 ½ inches wide at its crown and weigh 2 ½ pounds without fuel.  The finial at the bottom of the handle is an apple, representing Macomb County’s heritage of farming and harvesting, including orchards, cider mills and breweries.  The handle itself showcases ripples, exemplifying the deep connection to waterways, from early transportation and commerce to lakes, beaches, sailing and water sports activities. Feathers adorn the bottom of the torch’s crown, symbolizing the Peregrine Falcons that nest on the Old Macomb County Building and the community’s longstanding role in flight and aviation at Selfridge. Encircling the top of the crown, below the flame, are tire treads, acknowledging the county’s deep roots in the automotive industry as well as in manufacturing.  Looking down into the torch crown, bike spokes surround the steel shroud from within which the flame will burn, characterizing Macomb County’s natural beauty, and the network of bike paths and trails that encourage its preservation and exploration.

Macomb Community College President James O. Sawyer IV (right) hands the lit bicentennial relay torch to Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel (left).
About the Torch Relay
The Torch Relay is a 200 mile non-stop relay that traverses all 27 communities within Macomb County. A torchbearer is planned for every mile of the route. It will begin at 5:38 a.m. on Thursday, June 21 and end at 9:45 p.m. on June 22, kicking off the Mount Clemens Fireworks. For more information, please visit  
About Macomb Community College
Macomb Community College ( is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to nearly 40,000 students annually.  Macomb nationally ranks in the top two percent in the number of associate degrees awarded by community colleges and is the largest grantor of associate degrees in Michigan. The college’s comprehensive educational programming includes pre-collegiate experiences, university transfer and career preparation programs, bachelor degree completion and graduate degree programs, workforce training, professional education and certification, and continuing education and enrichment opportunities.
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Contact: Sean M. Patrick, 586.445.7271,
Sean Patrick, Manager, Media Relations
(586) 445-7271