Latest Headlines

Come Explore Our Library! Tool Library!!

Did you know that we have a Tool Library?? We are one of the few academic libraries in the country that have one!  There are hand tools, measuring tools, LabQuest, technology tools AND a MaKey MaKey! All available to for you to check out!  Check our Circulation Policy for complete details and information.

11 Piece Computer Toolkit

11 Piece Computer Toolkit

Tired of digging around trying to find just the right tool to separate those little plastic pieces while working on your computer? We’ve got an 11-piece computer tool kit – complete with scissor clamp tweezers and 2 nylon spludgers! Looking for just the right size Hex Key while you are putting together your new furniture? We have both an SAE set and two metric sets. We have pliers, a socket set (standard and metric), wrenches and screwdrivers, including a screwdriver set specifically for video games! Be sure to check our hand tool section!

Or maybe you want to find out how much it is going to cost to run your refrigerator, sound system, television, gaming console and computer all at the same time? We have a power monitor that can show you the operating costs of household appliances. Need to measure your room to see if that new couch will fit? Check out our Laser Distance Measurer. It has a 100′ range and has +/- 3/22″ accuracy. We have a number of measuring tools – light meters, sound meters, infrared thermometers, Each tool has a link to a pdf file of the user manuals.

LabQuest 2 available in our Tool Library

LabQuest 2 available in our Tool Library

We have the LabQuest 2 complete with the tools needed to use it. The LabQuest Force Plate will measure the forces that are developed with stepping, jumping and other human-scale actions; the EKG sensor will measure the electrical waveforms produced during the contraction of the muscle – helping you determine the axis of the heart, and investigate the effect of the central nervous system has on reflex amplitude.  Check out all the LabQuest tools we have available. Each tool also has the user manual in pdf form and is available from the link.

We have Raspberry Pi 2 in our technology tool section! A credit-card sized computer created for learning and experimentation! Check out our August 28th blog specifically on Raspberry Pi!

MaKey MaKey Kit Engineering Tool Library Technology Tools

MaKey MaKey Kit
Engineering Tool Library Technology Tools


We have another great way to experiment and interact with your computer – MaKey MaKey! You plug it into your computer and you can use everyday conductive objects as new inputs to perform actions! Want a banana piano? You can make one with MaKey MaKey! Or you can draw a joystick and use it to play video games. You can even learn how to send an email using alphabet soup…


The Tool Library is made possible through donations from Geb Thomas, the Engineering Electronic Shop and Engineering Computer Services. Be sure to tell them “Thank You!” – we really appreciate their help in making our Tool Library one of the best! We are frequently adding new tools, so be sure to check out the webpage regularly!

Come and explore our library and investigate our Tool Library!




DIY for the Weekend – Raspberry Pi

Classes have started and you need a project to take your mind off all that homework you already have…. Try Raspberry Pi – it is more than just a yummy dessert!

It’s a small computer – credit-card sized – that is inexpensive and was designed with hacking and computer experimentation in mind.  The introduction to Raspberry Pi Projects by Andrew Robinson and Mike Cook, likens learning to use computers with learning to cook – everyone should have those basic skills. That doesn’t mean that everyone will become professional chefs or computer programmers, but it is good to know those basics. Eben Upton developed Raspberry Pi while working with computer science students at Cambridge University. He found that students weren’t “tinkering” with their computers. So he developed an inexpensive – around $25 – computer that is designed to be hacked and used for experimentation. Raspberry Pi is a great way to learn the basics of Linux or Python programming, and electronics.

Raspberry Pi 2

Raspberry Pi 2

Want to geocache from the comfort of your car? You can do that with Raspberry Pi! Maybe the only kind of pet you are allowed to have in your dorm or apartment is fish. Trying to maintain the proper water temperature can be tricky.  So, make a smart, communicative thermometer to let you know when the water in your fish tank fluctuates to a dangerous degree.  You can do it using Raspberry Pi. Or how about making a lamp that creates mood lighting, but can also check your Twitter messages? You can, with Raspberry Pi.

We have resources to help you get started with your Raspberry Pi experimentation. For the reader who has never used it before, Raspberry Pi from the “Teach Yourself Visually” is available. For those ready for a more in-depth manual, check out Mastering the Raspberry Pi.  We have books with Raspberry Pi projects and hacks that will walk you through working with both software and hardware, from games like Minecraft to controlling a LEGO robot to creating a one person band.

Piqued your interest? Want to try your hand at using a Raspberry Pi? We have one in the Tool Library!  We also have many other tools to help you as you tinker and explore. The lamp that creates mood lighting and checks your Twitter account calls for a multimeter – we have that in the Tool Library, too.  Incidentally, the mood-lighting-Twitter-checking lamp is called a “Giraffe Mood Lamp” in Make: raspberry Pi and AVR projects. You’ll have to check it out to find out why! Don’t have a Twitter account yet? We have Twitter for Dummies.

We have what you need to get started with Raspberry Pi – and it could be just the project you need for this weekend!


Hoile, Cefn. 2014. Make: Raspberry Pi and AVR projects. Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media, Inc. Engineering Library QA76.8 .R15 H65 2015

Suehle, Ruth. 2014. Raspberry Pi hacks. Sebastopol, CA : O’Reilly Media. Engineering Library QA76.8 .R15 S84 2014

Wentk, Richard. 2014. Raspberry Pi (Teach yourself visually). Indianapolis, IN : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Engineering Library AQ76.8 .R15 W46 2014

Robinson, Andrew. 2014. Raspberry Pi projects. Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley. Engineering Library QA76.8 .R15 R53 2014

Gay, Warren. 2014. Mastering the Raspberry Pi. Berkeley, CA : Apress. Engineering LIbrary QA76.8 .R15 G39 2014

Raspberry Pi 2. Lichtenberger Engineering Library Tool Library

Multimeter (Voltmeter). Lictenberger Engineering Library Tool Library.


Other Resources:

Raspberry Pi official website

Raspberry Pi 2: Six things you can (and can’t) do. February 11, 2015.  Information Week.

Build a Raspberry Pi powered joke machineMaker Media. Date Accessed: August 25, 2015


What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation? We Updated Our Library!!

What did you do on your summer vacation?

New computers, computer tables and chairs!

New computers, computer tables and chairs!

It’s hard to believe that the fall semester is about to begin! The campus is full of students eager to start classes and see all the changes that have occurred on the campus over the summer.

On our summer “vacation” we updated the Lichtenberger Engineering Library! We have 20 new computers, along with new chairs and computer tables. We also now have two scanners – the brand-new-just-added scanner is a high-speed, face-up book capture system that is as quick and easy to use as a copy machine. We also have two printers that are accessible from either your laptop or the library desktop computers. Both scanners, the print stations and the copier are all located together for easy access.

Pod 1: Complete with MediaScape!

Pod 1: Complete with MediaScape!


We have a variety of spaces for all your studying needs. Besides the 20 new computers, we have 12 computers in the multi-purpose room and 2 pods for group study – one of which has a MediaScape. We have both group study tables and study carrels for individual use. The lower level is a quiet study space complete with study carrels, easy chairs, bean bag chairs, and gamer chairs. The 150,000 books in our collection are also located on the lower level and cover subject matter from Aeronautics to Z-80 Programming.

There is also a wonderful collection of DVDs – everything from Mythbusters, Junkyard Wars, How It’s Made, Extreme Engineering, and a host of other titles that are all available by asking at the circulation desk.  Journal subscriptions cover everything from Road & Travel, SWE, Make Magazine, to The Journal of Theoretical & Applied Mechanics.

We have access to over 3,000 e-resources and online subject guides covering information for all the engineering majors.  You can access IEEExplore, over 20,000 Standards, Patents, a citation guide, information on Engineering ethics, copyright and open access information. There is also a wide range of handbooks and digital publications, all available from the Lichtenberger Engineering Library homepage. You can search course reserves, databases and e-journals directly from our homepage, too.  If you want more information about our resources and how they can be used, we offer Xpress Classes – short 30 minute introductory classes led by specialized librarians. Classes begin September 3rd and are held on Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the Library multi-purpose room. The final class will be held on November 19th. Each class is designed to help get you started using the various resources that will help you with your assignments and projects.

Raspberry Pi 2

Raspberry Pi 2

We are also one of the only academic libraries in the country with a Tool Library! We have hand tools, LabQuest, measuring tools, and technology tools – wrenches, Hex Keys, Screwdrivers, Computer toolkit, calipers, angle locators, light meters, tubular spring scales, acoustic microphone, and an eyeball webcam to name a few. AND we have just added a MaKey MaKey Kit and Raspberry Pi 2!


Explore our homepage – with inks to new books, resources, our blog, and how to get help. Then come explore the library! We are at 2001 Seamans Center – just off the Student Commons. Our hours are listed on our homepage – so stop in!

Head Librarian, Kari Kozak and Informatics Librarian, Qianijn (Marina) Zhang, are available for research consultations and all our staff are available to help you find the resources you need! And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest!

Come see all we have to offer – we look forward to seeing you soon!

Qianjin (Marina) Zhang, Engineering & Informatics Librarian

Qianjin (Marina) Zhang, Engineering & Informatics Librarian


Kari Kozak Head, Lichtenberger Engineering Library



25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!



On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Iowa’s former senator, Tom Harkin, wrote the bill and Iowa City has held a celebration every year since then. The University of Iowa Council on Disability Awareness has planned a number of events to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the ADA into law. This year’s celebration is scheduled to take place on the Pedestrian Mall, Saturday, July 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Tara Fall, an Iowa native who now lives in California, is the keynote speaker and will speak at 1:30 p.m. She had a stroke while undergoing surgery for seizures when she was 27 years old. She now has prosopagnosia – “face-blindness.” She is the author of “Brainstorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain.” Saturday’s festivities will also include music, dance, and booths.

Mobility disabilities often cause the person to look passive and dependent which reduces their opportunities for constructive engagement. ADA mobility requirements include ramps, accessible parking, and drinking fountains. But, it also has requirements for such varied public places as amusement parks, golf courses, children’s play areas, fishing piers and more. Assistive Technologies (AT) are continually being developed and refined for a wide-range of mobility needs and include wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthesis and Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA). When using AT a person with mobility impairments is better able to interact with the environment and the people around them, thus making them less dependent on others.

Physical limitations often includes the need for computer adjustments. For those with difficulties managing a mouse there are joysticks and trackballs. Eye trackers can also take the place of a computer mouse, and keyboards can be enlarged or color-coded. Websites can be difficult to navigate for many differing disabilities. Text-to-Speech can help those with visual impairments. Those with auditory challenges are unable to listen to audio-only recordings, or audio-visual recordings with no closed captioning or transcript available. The Web Accessibility Initiative has resources for people with disabilities, and those making and implementing policies.


Universal Design (UD) is the process of making things safer, easier and more convenient for everyone. UD addresses the wide spectrum of human abilities and designs for that diversity, thus making things easier for everyone. For instance, installing the ramps on the corners of sidewalks for people in wheelchairs has also benefited people pushing strollers. For a fascinating look at how UD is making life easier, we have Universal design: solutions for a barrier-free living.

There is a wide-range of abilities and needs for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Video games using storytelling have been shown to help teach social skills to those with ASD. Video games have also been used in cognitive therapy for brain injury, physical therapy, and pain management. For more information on the use of video games with ASD check out Assistive technology research, practice, and theory, and for work with brain injuries refer to Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities.

FingerReader, wearable interface for reading on-the-go. MMIT Media Lab.

FingerReader, wearable interface for reading on-the-go. MIT Media Lab.

Assistive Technologies are also used for reading text. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity has information on which popular tablets are best for people with dyslexia. For those needing help accessing printed text there are devices such as the FingerReader.

For more information on human/computer interaction, inclusive design for communities, transportation and everyday objects, stop in and check out our many resources!



Subject Guide: ADA and Universal Design. July 13, 2015. University of Iowa Lichtenberger Engineering Library.

Woman suffering from face blindness can’t recognize her own reflection. Nov. 4, 2013.

Assistive Technology research, practice, and theory. HV1569.5 .A85 2014

Assistive Technology research, practice, and theory. HV1569.5 .A85 2014

Rhoads, Marcela Abadi. The ADA companion guide : understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidlines (ADAAG). 2010. Hoboken, NF : John Wiley. Engineering Library KF5709.3 H35 R48 2010.

Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities. 2014. Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .A87 2014.

Assistive technology research, practice, and theory. 2014.  Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .A85 2014.

How people with disabilities use the web: overview. Aug. 1, 2012. W3C, Web Accessibility Initiative.

Herwig, Oliver. Universal design : solutions for a barrier-free living. 2008. Basel ; Boston : Birkhäuser. Engineering Library NA2545 .A3 H47 2008

Assistive technology: a Q&A with Roy Shilkrot about the FingerReader. Sept. 3, 2014.  Belo Miguel Cipriani.

A dyslexic student”s perspective: which tablet features work best for dyslexics. 2015. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

Other Resources:

Stephen Hawking: a brief history of Mine-TV review. Dec. 9, 2013. The Guardian.

Speech, image, and language processing for human computer interaction : multi-modal advancements  2012. Hershey, PA : Information Science Reference. Engineering Library QA76.9 H85 S654 2012

Disability informatics and web accessibility for motor limitations. 2014. Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .D53 2014

Designing web accessibility for a beautiful web. 2010. [Berkeley, CA] : New Riders. Engineering Library Circulation Desk Video Record 29966 DVD

ADA national network. U.S. Department of Education,  and National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Network. Date accessed: July 24, 2015

Celebrating access today: 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jan. 30, 2015. The United States Department of Justice.


The Science of Bicycles and the Joy of RAGBRAI!



This year the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) will stop in Coralville on July 24. RAGBRAI XLIII began in Sioux City on July 19 and will finish in Davenport on July 25. There are 6 overnight stops along the RAGBRAI route and the longest day of riding is the first day – from Sioux City to Storm Lake, a distance of just over 74 miles.

The first RAGBRI was held in 1973, and started as a challenge between the Des Moines Register feature writer/copy editor John Karras and Donald Kaul, author of the Des Moines Register’s “Over the Coffee” column. The ride was opened to a “few friends,” i.e. the public. Fortunately, the turnout was light, because no camping arrangements – or any other types of arrangements – had been made for the riders. The number of riders varied along the route, but 114 riders made the entire distance that first year.  One of the interesting people the ride attracted was Clarence Pickard of Indianola. The 83-year-old showed up for that first ride with a used ladies Schwinn. He rode all the way to Davenport, including the 110-mile trek from Des Moines to Williamsburg on a 100°+ day. For the ride he wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet.

Because there so much national and international media coverage, the number of riders increased quickly. In order to make the ride more manageable, it is now limited to 8,500 registered riders each year.  Since RAGBRAI began 326,650 riders have pedaled over 19,000 miles. 780 towns have been visited since its inception.

Whether you want to hit the road on RAGBRAI, or simply want to cruise around town for transportation and exercise, the type of bike you purchase makes a difference. Where you plan to ride, with whom will you be riding, your budget, and your previous experience all make a difference when choosing a bike.  Mountain bikes are great for off-road and single track trails, but they are heavier, have thicker tires and are generally slower and require more effort. Road bikes are for paved roads, paths and smooth unpaved paths. They are lighter and designed more for speed. There are also hybrid and comfort bikes, tandems, recumbents, commuters and cruisers. If you have questions about specific bikes, RAGBRAI has a forum where information is available from experienced riders.


Bicycle components

The bicycle is a simple machine, but has many components and it is always a good idea to learn what each component is called. There are 10 bicycle shops that now participate in RAGBRAI, but it doesn’t hurt to know basic maintenance for your own equipment. Learning to repair tire punctures yourself can keep you from being stranded by the side of the road whenever and wherever you ride. Bike Repair & Maintenance for Dummies has a section on what to look for in a pre-ride inspection, how to clean and take care of your bike after your ride, and items that should be included in an emergency tool kit – including duct tape!


Gladiator Chopper


Interested in building your own custom bike? Bike, scooter, and chopper projects for the evil genius has the information you need to create your own Gladiator Chopper, 3-wheel trikes for adults and kids, stunt bikes, and electric-powered bikes!


Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are becoming more popular. A modified or custom bike frame that has pedals but also and electric motor gives the rider the option to pedal or use the power of a battery and motor drive system. They are less expensive than gas-powered scooters and are safer than scooters and motorcycles. A 1 square foot solar panel is enough to power an eBike for 3,100 miles.

There are also luxury bikes – the Monanate Luxury Gold bike has 24 carat gold leaf and 11,000 Swarovski crystals. The fenders are steam-bent wood and there is python leather on the handlebars, seat and around the lock. There are only 10 Luxury Gold bikes in existence and cost about $33,000. There are many beautiful and practical ways to store your bicycle, too. The Pedal Pod by British Designer Tamasine Osher, is sold walnut and is the perfect place to store your bike and accessories.


Montante Luxury Gold. The Bike Book. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012



Pedal Pod, Tamasine Osher Design. The Bike Book Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012







Stop by all the Coralville RAGBRAI activities on Friday and if you find yourself intrigued by the world of cycling we have resources on everything from Effective cycling, The bicycle builder’s handbookto Bicycling science: ergonomics and mechanics.




Let’s Ride. 2015. City Bikes.

Drinkell, Peter. The bike owner’s handbook. 2012. London : Cicada Books. Engineering Library TL430 .D75 2012.


The bike book : lifestyle, passion, design. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012

Bailey, Dennis. Bike repair & maintenance for dummies. 2009. Hoboken, N.J.  : John Wiley. Engineering Library TL430 .B35 2

What is an electric bike? 2015. Electric Bike Review.

The eBike book. 2013. Kempen, Germany : New York : teNeues Pub Group. Engineering Library TL437.5 .E44 E35 2013

Graham, Brad. 2008. Bike, scooter, and chopper gadgets for the evil genius. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TL400 .G689 2008.

The bike book : lifestyle, passion, design. 2012. Kempen, Germany : teNeues. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012.


Forester, John. 2012. Effective Cycling. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press. Engineering Library GV1041 .F67 2012.

Wiley, Jack. 1980. The bicycle builder’s bible. Blue Ridge Summit, PA : Tab Books. Engineering Library TL410 .W53

Whitt, Frank Rowland. Bicycling science : ergonomics and mechanics. 1974. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press. Engineering Library TL410 .W48

Downs, Todd. 2010. The bicycling guide to complete bicycle maintenance & repair : for road & mountain bikes. [Emmaus, PA] : Rodale, [New York] : Distributed by Macmillan. Engineering Library TL430 .D68 2010


Do You Remember the Typewriter? New Exhibit Explores the History!

The majority of the younger generations may have seen typewriters, but few have actually used them. They weren’t lucky enough to experienc the “joy” of using a typewriter eraser or liquid paper to correct those inevitable mistakes. Our new exhibit explores the fascinating history of the typewriter.

In Inventor and inventions, we learn that in 1714, Englishman Henry Mill, patented the idea of “an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively on after another.” It was proposed to take the place of slow and often illegible handwriting. Most of the early attempts, however, were actually slower than handwriting and some were as large as a piano.

The Writing Ball of Malling-Hansen

The Writing Ball of Malling-Hansen

There are conflicting reports about the earliest working models of the typewriter. One report says that the earliest was made in Italy by Giuseppe Pellegrino Turri, not only a nobleman, but also a skilled mechanic. He invented carbon paper to provide ink to the typewriter. Not much is known about this early typewriter, but 16 letters that were written on it are preserved in a museum in Reggio Emilia. The legend is that in the early nineteenth century he built it for his love, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono, who had gone blind. However, another version of the legend is that the earliest typewriter was invented in 1802 by Agostino Fantoni from Fivizzano, to help his blind sister. That legend says that Turri simply improved on the machine and then invented carbon paper. We do know that in 1865 the first commercially produced typewriter was developed, and in 1870 it was patented and put into production by Rasmus Mallin-Hansen, a Danish pastor.

In 1868, Christopher Sholes and his associate Carlos Glidden secured a patent for the first commercially successful typewriter. Sholes and Glidden sold their patent to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (famous for sewing machines at that time). In 1873, Remington began production of its first typewriter. It had a QWERTY keyboard – the keyboard still in use today. The typewriter came with a foot pedal (like sewing machines) which controled the carriage returns. The QWERTY keyboard was developed to slow typists down. The most often used letters were spaced far apart and the slower speed helped correct the problem of jamming. The Remington No. 2 typewriter was introduced in 1878 and it came with the option of upper and lower case letters.



A Stenotype Keyboard

A stenotype was patented in 1895 and is a special shorthand machine that is used not only in court reporting, but also in closed captioning. The trained stenographer must be able to type at speeds up to 225 words per minute with a high degree of accuracy.


A patent for an electric typewriter was filed by Thomas Edison in 1872, but the first workable model didn’t come out until the 1920s. Typewriters continued to improve and develop, moving from the early electric typewriters to the more modern “IBM Selectric” typewriter which used a ball rather than the earlier type bars. There was also the “daisy wheel” – a disk with the letters and numbers stamped on the outer edges. From there the typewriter evolved into the electronic typewriter which had a memory where text could be stored.

Scytale. Oldest known military ciphering method.

Scytale. Oldest known military ciphering method.

The earliest known military ciphering tool, the Scytale, was used more than 2500 years ago. A messenger wore a belt – a stretch of leather- which had characters written on it. They were seemingly random and could only be deciphered when the leather was wrapped around the correct size piece of wood. There is a replica of a Scytale in our exhibit – stop by and see if you can decipher the message!


Photo of a genuine Marine 4-rotor Enigma encoding/decoding machine, from Bletchley Park, England

Photo of a Marine 4-rotor Enigma encoding/decoding machine, Bletchley Park, England


Cryptography and ciphering have gone through many transformations since the Scytale. At the end of World War I, German engineer Arthur Scherbius invented Enigma – an electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine. It was adopted by the military of several countries, most notably Nazi Germany. When it was first developed, the cipher was changed every few months which meant the codes were often cracked. However, when World War II broke out, the code was changed on a daily basis, making it nearly impossible to break. In 1940, codebreakers at Bletchley Park broke the code. They had created machines, called ‘bombes,’ which cracked the ‘Green Key’ – the administrative key for the German Army, and then they managed to crack the ‘Red Key,’ – used by Luftwaffe liaison officers coordinating air support for army units. It is said that breaking these codes shortened the war by at least 2 years. The Colossus, created by Alan Turing, was built to break another German encryption machine called the Lorenz cipher. The Colossus is the precursor to the modern computer.

There are three typewriters in our exhibit – dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s.  We have both an Underwood #5 and a Remington Noiseless from the 30s and a Smith Corona Coronet from the 50s-60s. The Smith Corona is interesting because it is electric, but still has a manual carriage return.  There are several photographs from the 1950s showing women in Jessup Hall using typewriters. Come see the typing pool and what were probably state-of-the-art typewriters.  Thank you to the Department of Special Collections and University Archives for providing copies of  these photographs. The photos are part of the F.W. Kent Collection of Photographs. Thanks also, goes to Lindsay Vella for graciously lending her typewriters for this exhibit!

Fun Facts:

Just for fun!

The Typewriter. Composed by Leroy Anderson, October 9, 1950.  Performed June 12, 2011 by Voces para la Paz; soloist: Alfredo Anaya.

  • Fastest Typist in the World is Barbara Blackburn. Her top speed was recorded at 212 words per minute. She appeared on the David Letterman Show in 1985.
  • Mohammed Khurshid Hussain set the World’s Record for Fastest Nose Typing.
  • A QWERTY keyboard takes 15 keystrokes to type “court reporting.” A court reporter using the Stenograph keyboard takes 3 keystrokes.
  • Earliest known cryptography is found in the non-standard hieroglyphs carved into monuments in ancient Egypt – as far back as 1900 BC.
  • Court reporters do not listen or type words or listen for context – they only use phonetics.
  • George K. Anderson of Memphis, TN, patented the typewriter ribbon on 9/14/1886.
  • Every typewriter has its own individual pattern of type – like a fingerprint. Special forensic agents were used in police departments to identify typewriters used in blackmail and other criminal activities.
  • Mark Twain was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to his publisher.
  • Keyboard fashion fun!
Kate Spade All Typed Up Clyde Satchel

Kate Spade All Typed Up Clyde Satchel

Typewriter Key Bracelet

Typewriter Key Bracelet



Typewriter Necklace

Typewriter Necklace



Inventors and inventions. 2009. London : Black Dog Publishing.

Computer keyboard. 2015. History of Computers.

Langone, John. The new how things work: everyday technology explained. 2004. Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society.

Scytale. 2014. Cryptool-Online.

Breaking Enigma. 2015. Bletchley Park.

Was the first computer a ‘Bombe’? Computer Science for Fun. Queen Mary, University of London. Date accessed: July 1, 2015.

Other Resources:

History of Smith Corona. 2015. Smith Corona Corporation.

A brief history of typewriters. The Classic Typewriter Page. Dated accessed: July 6, 2015.

History of the computer keyboard. 2015. About Money.

Typewriters. 2015. About Money.


New Horizons Reaches Pluto, July 14, 2015!

New Horizons is launched.

New Horizons is launched.

Do you remember where you were on January 19, 2006? On that date, at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard time, (CST) the Atlas 5 rockets shot the New Horizons spacecraft towards space! The probe left earth at about 36,250 miles per hour – the fastest ever for a NASA mission. In a post-launch interview, the principal investigator for New Horizons, Alan Stern, said, “The United States has a spacecraft on its way to Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and on to the stars.” He continued, “I have July 14, 2015 emblazoned on my calendar.”

Tomorrow, July 14, 2015, at 6:49 a.m. CST, New Horizons will fly within 7,800 miles of Pluto’s surface. It will be passing Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour and it will only take about 8 minutes to fly past. Cameras aboard the spacecraft with have resolved features on Pluto’s surface as small as the ponds of Central Park.  Shortly after New Horizons passes Pluto, NASA scientists will receive the final picture that was taken of Pluto before the fly-by. It takes nearly 4.5 hours to transmit signals sent between Earth and New Horizons. Photos from New Horizons will be delayed because during the fly-by all of its resources will be oriented towards Pluto. On the day of the fly-by only engineering data will come down. On the 15th the science data will begin again. The earliest photos of Pluto are scheduled to be released around 2 p.m. CST on Wednesday, the 15th. It will take nearly 16 months for all of the photos and scientific data to be transmitted to Earth.

Pluto has been the subject of some controversy over the last few years.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet rather than a planet.  The IAU redefined the definition of “planet,” and Pluto no longer fits the criteria. Some feel this is a “demotion” for Pluto. Dave Jewitt, however, believes it can be considered a promotion since our perception has been transformed. And, in The 50 most extreme places in our solar system David Baker and Todd Radtcliff note that Pluto is not a planet, but is now a dwarf planet, a Kuiper Belt object (one of the largest), a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO), and a plutoid (a classification for dwarf planets that are also TNOs).

And, no, Pluto was not named after the Disney character. On March 13, 1930, the discovery of the ninth planet was officially announced and suggestions for names came from all over the world. The winning name came from a young schoolgirl, Venetia Burney, from Oxford, England. She thought that because the planet was so far away from the Sun, in its own dark realm, it should be named after the Roman god of the underworld – Pluto.

Riding aboard the NASA spacecraft are ashes of the late astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Tombaugh died January 17, 1997, nine years to the day of New Horizons first launch attempt. The launch was delayed twice due to weather.


Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra. taken by the Hubble telescope in 2006. Charon is the closest to Pluto and Nix is the furthest away.

On December 6, 2014 at 8:53 p.m. (CST), New Horizons came out of a nearly 9-year hibernation.  In the nearly 3 billion mile trip, New Horizons spent 2/3 of its life in 18 separate hibernation periods. The hibernation periods lasted from 36 to 202 days and helped preserve fuel and the spacecraft’s components. The on-board flight computer did not hibernate and would send a weekly “beacon-status tone” to let NASA know it was still on its way.

The New Horizons engineers programmed a “wake-up” sequence for December 6, 2014 at 2 p.m. CST. Once that happened, the spacecraft sent a signal to NASA indicating that the power was up and running.  New Horizons was more than 2.9 billion miles from earth and the signal took 4 hours and 26 minutes to reach the Deep Space Station in Australia.

Pluto has the most elongated path of any planet and it resembles a comet more than a planet. It is a very slow moving planet and it travels a tremendous distance, therefore, a single orbit of Pluto around the sun lasts at least 248 years.

This image of Pluto was taken by LORRI and received on July 8, 2015.

This image of Pluto was taken by LORRI and was received on July 8, 2015.

Since New Horizons won’t go into Pluto’s orbit, it will keep going – heading beyond Pluto to visit more objects within the Kuiper Belt. Information from these encounters will be similar to that received about Pluto – helping us learn about the composition and atmospheres of these rocks. Stern notes that this Wednesday, July 15th, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the day Mariner 4 flew by Mars. New Horizons will collect 5,000 times as much data as that mission did.


Go outside tomorrow at 6:49, look to the heavens and think of the historic trip of New Horizons – 9 1/2 years across 3 billion miles of space.



Reaching for Pluto: NASA launches probe to Solar System’s edge. January 19, 2006.

Coming in 2015: the first spacecraft encounter with Pluto.  December 8, 2014. Popular Science.

The 50 Most Extreme Places in our Solar System. Engineering Library QB502 .B345 2010

The 50 Most Extreme Places in our Solar System. Engineering Library QB502 .B345 2010

Weintraub, David A. 2007. Is Pluto a planet? a historical journey through the solar system Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University.

Baker, David. 2010. The 50 most extreme places in our solar system. London, England ; Cambridge Mass. Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Bond, Peter. 2007. Distant Worlds : milestones in planetary exploration. New York : Copernicus, in association with Praxis Plublishing, Ltd.

New Horizons spies Charon orbiting Pluto. August 7, 2014. NASA

Why New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto will be just 8 minutes longJuly 13, 2015.  Los Angeles Times : Science Now.


Other Resources:

Kuiper BeltJuly 13, 2015.

Tyson, Neil deGrasse. 2009. The Pluto files : the rise and fall of America’s favorite planet. New York : W.W. Norton.

Elkins-Tanton, Linda T. 2011. Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the outer solar system. New York : Facts on File.

Jones, Barrie William. 2010. Pluto : sentinel of the outer solar system. New York : Cambridge University Press.


Interactive Online Tool for Iowa Flood Information!

As rainy as this spring has been, you may want to learn how to check out the flood conditions in your area.

Almost everyone knows that floodplains are the lowlands and relatively flat areas adjoining waterways that are subject to flooding.  Floodplains are, in fact, an extension of the water system.  Their natural function is to help move high water volumes downstream or to store the water until flooding subsides.  They provide a variety of functions including flood water storage, filtration and removal of water pollutants, channel stability and erosion control, wildlife habitat, beauty and recreational opportunities and stream baseflow. Building and developing on flood plains disrupts the ability of floodplains to perform these vital functions. Not to mention the danger that flooding causes to property, homes, and lives.


Designing the Sustainable Site. Heather Venhaus. Graphic page 121. Engineering Library NA9051 .V46 2012

We’ve heard of the 100-year-floodplain, but perhaps don’t know that it doesn’t mean that a flood will only occur every hundred years. Floodplains are classified by the likelihood of flooding in a given year. An elevation that has a 1% chance of being flooded each year is designated as a 100-year-floodplain. In fact, 100-year-floods (and floods of any designation) can occur in a relatively short period of time.  Since floods are not consistent in their timing, it can be easy to downplay or ignore the risks until it is too late to prevent damage. In Designing the sustainable site: integrated design strategies for small-scale sites and residential landscapes, Heather Venhaus discusses not only flooding, she includes information on sustainability options for air, water pollution, biodiversity, and more.

Floods are the most frequent of natural disasters and destructive floods occur world-wide: the Indus River basin in Pakistan in 2010; Queensland, Australia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; and the Philippines in late 2010 and early 2011. Other major floods also occurred in 2011: the earthquake-induced tsunami on the north-east coast of Japan; the Mississippi River; Pakistan; and Thailand, including Bangkok.

We here in southeast Iowa know about floods first-hand.  To help residents understand localized flooding, the University of Iowa Flood Center (IFC) has developed a new interactive, online tool to access local flood information.  The IFC is part of Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR), a research institute at the UI College of Engineering. It is the nation’s first academic center devoted solely to the study of floods.

The Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) includes access to current stream and river level data from 19 stream-stage sensors in Johnson County. IFIS provides information that can help Johnson County residents make more informed decisions for flood planning and mitigation. It will also alert community members in advance so they are better able to stay safe and minimize potential flood damage.

The user-friendly, online application displays up-to-the-minute community specific information on rainfall, stream levels, and more, including:

  • Iowa River flood inundation maps for Iowa City/Cedar Rapids
  • Real-time and historical data on water levels, gauge heights, and rainfall conditions
  • 2D and 3D interactive visualizations
  • Discharge levels at the Coralville Lake Reservoir

It is “a one-stop web-platform to access community-based flood conditions, forecasts, visualizations, inundation maps, flood-related data, information and applications.” The website has an informative video tutorial which will walk you through the many features available.

Be aware of the flood conditions near you – and stay safe!


Venhaus, Heather. 2012. Designing the sustainable site : integrated design strategies for small-scale sites and residential landscapes. Hoboken, N.J : John Wiley & Sons.

Jha, Abhas Kumar. 2012. Cities and flooding : a guide to integrated urban flood risk management for the 21st century. Washington, D.C. : World Bank.

Iowa Flood Center. 2015. University of Iowa.

Iowa Flood Information System. Iowa Flood Center. University of Iowa. Date accessed: June, 2015.


Price, Roland K. 2011. Urban hydroinformatics : data models, and decision support for integrated urban water management. London : IWA Publishing.

Brody, Samuel David. 2011. Rising waters : the causes and consequences of flooding in the United States. Cambridge, New York : Cambridge University Press.

Mambretti, S., editor. 2012. Flood risk assessment and management. Southampton ; Boston : WIT Press.

FloodSmart.govJune 17, 2015. FEMA.


Happy Women in Engineering Day!!

National Women in Engineering Day June 23, 2015

National Women in Engineering Day
June 23, 2015

Last year the National Women in Engineering Society (WES) ) set up Women in Engineering Day to celebrate its 95th anniversary! WES started after World War I in 1919, when the many women who worked in engineering and technical roles during the war campaigned to save their jobs when the war ended and the jobs they held during the war went to returning soldiers.

Women have long played an important part in the areas of science and engineering, but the majority of women are nearly unknown. Sarah Guppy, 1770-1852, invented a method of making safe pilings for bridges; Icie Macy Hoobler, 1892-1984, was a biochemist doing research into nutrition, specifically mothers and children; Emma Perry Carr, 1880-1972), Chair of the Mount Holyoke College chemistry department in 1913, championed collaboration between faculty, graduate and undergraduate students; and Irene Joliot-Curie, 1897-1956, much less well-known than her mother, Marie Curie, she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She also made many contributions in the study of radioactivity.

Girls Coming to Tech. Engn Lib TA157,5 B59 2013

Girls Coming to Tech.
Engn Lib TA157,5 B59 2013

In Girls coming to tech! a history of American engineering education for women, Amy Sue Bix explores the “gendered history” that has prevented women in the United States from finding their places in the predominately male technical world. Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) admitted women from its opening in 1869, believing that men were being prepared to become intelligent, successful farmers and mechanics, therefore it was essential that women be educated in a manner that would “qualify” them to understand and “discharge their duties as wives & farmers of mechanics.”

Women began working with computers as soon as they were developed. In her book Recoding gender: women’s changing participation in computing, Jane Abbate discusses the early contributions of women to the computing world – from Colossus in Bletchley Park (think Alan Turring) to the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) in America – and how both used teams of women to operate them. For a fascinating look at how women with mathematical training moved into being “human computers” see the DVD Top Secret Rosies. It is the history of women recruited to be the “Rosie the Riverters” of mathematics for the U.S. Army. They used differential equations to figure trajectories for bombs and ammunitions, were a vital part of the war effort and were the earliest computer programmers.  Their contributions were mostly overlooked by those in charge, including not being invited to a celebratory dinner. Abbate also explores how computers and programming became more “masculine” during the 1960s and the number of women in computing has declined since the mid-1980s.

Recoding_genderIn Gender and computers: understanding the digital divide it is suggested that some of the features that have been added to current computer programs in order to “make learning fun,” may, in fact, be a reason that girls are more reluctant to go into computer science. Those features seem to be more in line with the way boys learn and process than they are with how girls often learn and process. Studies have found that, in general, when using computers to learn, boys prefer to learn with action games, flashing lights, loud noises and competition. Generally, girls prefer to use computers as a “learning tool” with direct and frequent feedback and with words, not noise and exploding icons. An example of a learning game directed more at males is Demolition Division.

There are, however, a number of women in the world of computer gaming. In 1979 Roberta Williams, the co-creator of Graphical Adventure Games and her husband, Ken, formed the company On-Line Systems (now called Sierra). Dona Bailey is the first woman to design an arcade game while she worked at Atari. Soon after the release of the arcade hit, Centipede, she disappeared from the gaming world, later admitting that it was the pressure and criticism from her male counterparts that drove her from the business. Amy Briggs is the creator of the first adventure games for girls. The first female – and the world’s oldest competitive gamer – is Doris Self. She entered the competitive gaming world in 1983 when she was 58.

We here at the University of Iowa are fortunate to have a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) student organization on campus. WISE Ambassadors are undergraduate and graduate women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. They organize K-12 and community outreach activities, plan professional development opportunities, and provide service to local organizations. Each year the WISE Ambassadors have organize a Science and Engineering Extravaganza for third through sixth grade girls, help with local science fairs. In 2014 the UI WISE organization donated a wide variety of resources to the Lichtenberger Engineering Library.  The donation includes books and DVDs. DVDs include NOVA and Frontline programming, the television series design|e2, and many others.

There is also an active Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter in the UI College of Engineering. They attend and network at conferences, and also have outreach events to help kids learn about engineering.



Top Secret Rosi

Top Secret Rosies. Engineering Circ Desk Video Rcord 31971 DVD

Rayner-Canham, Marelene F. 2001. Women in chemistry: their changing roles from alchemical times to the mid-twentieth centuryPhiladelphia, PA : Chemical Heritage Foundation.

WIPO Patentscope. Pocketbook. Publication Number: 2358983. Application Date: 10.08.1942

Bix, Amy Sue. 2013. Girls coming to tech! : a history of American engineering education for women. Cambridge, Massachusetts : London, England : The MIT Press.

Abbate, Janet. 2012. Recoding gender : women’s changing participation in computing. Cambridge, Massachusetts : MIT Press.

Top secret Rosies: the female computers of World War II. DVD. 2010. PBS.

Cooper, Joel. 2003. Gender and computers : understanding the digital divide. Mahwah, N.J Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Demolition Division. 2014. MathPlayground.

The most important women in the history of video games. 2015. about tech.



Halpern, Diane F. Sex differences in cognitive abilities.2012. New York. Psychology Press.

LinkSWE : magazine of the Society of Women EngineersJournal. New York, N.Y. The Society.

Women in history: mothers of invention – first women to file for American patents. 2015.  about money.

Women’s progress in science and engineering since 1973 (Infographic)June 11, 2015. livescience.

Why it’s crucial to get more women into science. November 8, 2014. National Geographic.

NASA girls and NASA boys: change the world through STEMJune 15, 2015. Women@NASA.

How many women inventors are there? 2015. about money.

National Women in Engineering Day. 2015.

This company proves you can hire more women in tech right now. No more excusesJune 18, 2015. Huff Post Tech

Mary Kies – Patenting Pioneer. 2015. Inventors.


New Fireworks Exhibit!


Summertime is almost here and what can be more summer-like than the 4th of July, picnics, parades and, most of all, fireworks! Come see our new fireworks display and get in the mood for summer!

Fireworks have a long and, dare I say, colorful history. Fireworks go back as far as 7th century China.  In 1292 Marco Polo took fireworks back to Italy where the Italians began to develop them as an art form. Settlers brought fireworks to the Americas in the 1600s, and the very first 4th of July celebration with fireworks was in 1777 – a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The earliest patents for fireworks go back as far as 1876.

There are a multitude of different fireworks, but they fall into three categories. Aerial fireworks include mortars, bottle rockets and Roman candles.  Proximate fireworks are often used indoors for concerts, theatrical presentations and movies. Ground-based fireworks include the familiar firecrackers, snakes, smoke bombs, and sparklers.


Firework cross section.

The beautiful colors of the fireworks come from various chemical compounds: red is strontium and lithium; blue is copper; silver or white is burning aluminum titanium and magnesium; orange is calcium; yellow is sodium; green is barium; and the neon green and turquoise are chlorine with barium or copper. Different chemicals also affect the appearance of fireworks in different ways. For example, aluminum creates the sparkler effect, glitter comes from antimony, calcium deepens the color, phosphorous creates glow in the dark effects and the smoke effects come from zinc.

Sound is also influenced by the chemicals used and by the shape of the firework tube. Perhaps surprisingly, the whistle effect is second only to flash powders in being the most hazardous firework effect.  Whistle combinations consist of potassium chlorate or potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, with a salt of benzoic acid or a substituted benzoic acid. You’ll notice you see the fireworks before you hear the booms. That’s because light travels about a million times faster than sound. Those loud booms are actually sonic booms caused by the expansion of gases. You can calculate how far from the fireworks you are by counting the seconds from the time you see the firework until you hear the boom. To figure the distance in miles simply multiply the number of seconds by .o2.  

There are, not surprisingly, many safety regulations surrounding the production and handling of fireworks, but there are also interesting regulations for the storage of fireworks. One of the hazards of storing fireworks is static electricity.  Staff working in explosive buildings should not wear synthetic clothing or non-conducting footwear. Personnel should also discharge themselves before entering the building with an electrostatic discharger. There are also regulations for conduction, anti-static flooring and the humidification of the room.

Before safety regulations were enacted there were many accidents resulting in casualties. When the Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle was signed in 1748 celebrations were held all over Europe. The celebration in Paris had a mass explosion which led to the death of 40 people and over 300 injuries.  It was 1875 before the Explosives Act was introduced. The current Federal Explosives Law and Regulations is from 2012. Each state also regulates the use and availability of fireworks.

George Frederick Handel was commissioned to write an overture for the London celebration of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. He wrote Music for the Royal Fireworks, and this began the tradition of association between music and fireworks. For more information about creating fireworks displays and their environmental impact, check out Fireworks displays: explosive entertainment, by Dr. Tom Smith.

Coralville Fireworks 2013

Coralville Fireworks 2013

So, when and why were fireworks banned in Iowa? Fireworks were banned in 1937, following two incidents. In Spencer, Iowa someone lit fireworks in a store where they were being sold. That 1931 fire destroyed most of the downtown. Then, in 1936, a similar fire in Remen, Iowa caused about $600,000 in damages. Iowa’s ban includes all fireworks except sparklers, toy snakes and caps.

Want to try to make your own (safe) fireworks for the 4th of July? Make: has instruction for making your own Soda Bottle Rocket LED Fireworks! Check out Make: v.41 (2014:Oct./Nov.) or the Make website.

So, whatever your plans are for the 4th of July, check out our exhibit and have a safe 4th full of fun and fireworks!



Conkling, John A. Chemistry of pyrotechnics : basic principles and theory. 2nd Edition. 2011. Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press. Engineering Library TP300 .C65 2011.

ENGN TP300 .R87 2009

ENGN TP300 .R87 2009

Soltis, Greg. When was the 4th of July first celebrated. Nov. 28, 2012. LiveScience.

Types of fireworks. FireworksLand. Date Accessed: May 2015

Wolcher, Natalie. How do fireworks make shapesJuly 1, 2011. LiveScience.

Allain, Rhett. The awesome physics in a simple sparkler. July, 4, 2014. Wired.

Helmenstine, Anne Marie. Chemistry of firework colors. Feb. 20, 2015. About Education.

Helmenstine, Anne Marie. Elements in fireworks. Dec. 5, 2014. About Educaton

Pappas, Stephanie. 5 fantastic fireworks facts. July 1, 2012. Live Science

Wolchover, Natalie. How do fireworks make shapes. July 1, 2011. Live Science.

De Antonis, Kathy. Fire. October 2010. ChemMatters.

Agrawal, J. P. (Jai Prakash). 2010. High energy materials : propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics. Weinheim : Wiley-VCH.  Engineering Library TP267.5 .A57 2010 

Smith, Thomas A.K. 2011. Firework displays : explosive entertainment. [Revere, MA] : Chemical Pub. Co. Engineering Library TP300 .F57 2011 

McLeod, Stacey. 10 fun facts you probably didn’t know about fireworks. Cottage Life. Date Accessed: May 2015.

How much does Disney spend annually for fireworks? Date Accessed: May 2015.

Which fireworks are legal and prohibited in Iowa and Illinois July 3, 2014. WQAD8 Quad Cities.

ATF Federal explosives law and regulations2012. U.S. Department of Justice.


More Resources:

Philip, Chris. A bibliography of firework books : works on recreative fireworks from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. 1985. Wincester, Hampshire : Published by C. Philip, in association with St. Paul’s Bibliographies. Main Library Z5885 .P48 1985

Russell, Michael S. The chemistry of fireworks. 2009. Cambridge, UK : RSC Pub. Engineering Library TP300 .R$87 2009.

The sound of fireworks – whistles2015. Learn Chemistry, Royal Society of Chemistry.

Fireworks Glossary. UK Firework Review. Date Accessed: May 2015.

The Unexcelled Fireworks Company. July 2, 2013. Letterology.

History of Fireworks. 2001-2007. Pyro Universe. Date Accessed: May 2015.

“Underwater fireworks” reaction of chlorine and acetylene. December 17, 2012. YouTube.

The future of the theme park fireworksJuly 13, 2004.

Chemical of the week: fireworks! Date Accessed May 2015.

The awesome physics in a simple sparkler. July 4, 2014. WIRED.