Books on the Move

Although one can argue that it is both a blessing and a curse, there is no doubt that professors accumulate a lot of books.  Dr. Susan Baim needed to relocate her library of books and she ended up in a situation that mirrored some of the most important concepts that are taught to Regional Campuses students -- such as strategic planning, thinking outside-of-the-box, collaborative problem-solving and teamwork.  Everything unfolded at a neighborhood association dinner when Dr. Baim said that she had a major number of books to move down one flight of stairs.  For most people, that is a lot of down-and-back-up stair climbing.

As should be expected, however, a team of two retired engineers, Lee Hite and Jerry McFeeters, sprang into action.  They hypothesized a plan of attack -- using terms like "inclined planes," "forces of gravity," "zip lines,” and “coefficients of friction," along with other practical engineering terms.  Then, after carefully developing and testing a delivery method prototype on a set of basement stairs, Dr. Baim got the call – they were ready to assist with the problem books!  Fortunately, as can be seen in the video, their design worked perfectly.  Over the course of around 90 minutes, these two gentlemen moved in excess of a thousand books, all with an absurdly low failure rate of one single bag.  (See it near the end of the video.)

For the "armchair engineers" watching the video, if you guessed that the secret to success was a small-diameter nylon rope (less surface area) coated with a generous amount of silicone lubricant, you would be right.  A project post-mortem revealed that the one failure that did occur was the result of frictional heating that melted the hand-holds on the bag – in other words, time to give the rope another coat of silicone spray!  (Engineers must ALWAYS do a project post-mortem….  How else would they move from a prototype to a final design?)

To watch these crafty engineers in action, see the short YouTube video. Although they tried to keep a serious engineering face on, it is pretty clear these guys were having a lot of fun.  After receiving profound thanks and a couple of bottles of soda for their efforts, they disappeared into the neighborhood in search of their next challenge, leaving nothing behind but an appreciative homeowner and a huge library of perfectly stacked books. 

Engineers to the rescue. . . .

Dr. Susan A. Baim

PS:  Please do not try this at home unless you have an engineer present.