Happy Native American Heritage Month! As a university that sits on the homelands of many tribes past and present, it is important to us to acknowledge the significant contributions that Native Americans have made to our culture and sciences. When creating our Untold Stories in STEM collection we wanted to include important stories of Native American scientists.
Native American Scientists provides a short biography of the lives and work of Fred Begay, Wilfred F. Denetclaw Jr., Frank C. Dukepoo, Clifton Poodry, and Jerrel Yakel.
Have you ever looked at the night sky and wondered who else has seen those same stars? In The Spirit and the Sky: Lakota visions of the Cosmos you can learn about the work done by Lakota astronomers in the 19th century, including how they named stars and constellations and explained the natural phenomena they saw.
Do you know other books about the impact that Native Americans have had in STEM fields? Let us know! We’re always looking for ideas to expand our Untold Stories in STEM collection.
Reminder: next week is Fall Break. We will be open Monday and Tuesday November 21 and 22 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm then closed from Wednesday, November 23 through Sunday, November 27th. Regular hours will resume on the 28th.
It’s World Origami Day! Did you know that the art of paper folding has applications in engineering? Biomedical engineering, robotics, space structures and more use techniques from origami.
Origami dates all the way back to Song Dynasty China (905-1125 CE), but you may not recognize it as the art form it is today. Many defining aspects of the practice including starting with a square piece of paper and a ban on cutting were part of European influence in the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, the activity of folding paper wasn’t known as origami until the late Showa Era in Japan (1926-1989).
Using origami techniques, engineers can solve problems, like fitting big things into small spaces. For example, in this video you can watch how folding techniques allowed for NASA engineers to fold the sunshield for the James Webb Telescope. The sunshield, at 60×46 ft., along with the massive mirror, which measures over 21 feet wide, are much too large to fit into any existing rockets, so engineers used origami-style folding to fit the telescope into the Ariane V Rocket.
Origami can be used to solve much more mundane earth-side problems as well. Architect Anton Willis moved into a new apartment and didn’t have enough space to store his kayak. He solved his problem by creating Oru Kayaks, fully functional and portable kayaks that fold up to be carried or stored.
Biomedical engineering can also get involved! Because of the nature of origami-based design, products are scalable, so the same principles that fold up a tennis court-sized sunshade can also design a heart stent that can be deployed with minimally invasive surgery.
Ready to explore more? We have several books in our collection that can get you started.
If the University of Iowa Libraries do not have a book you’re looking for, or if it’s checked out, you can request the item and we’ll bring it to Iowa City for you for free! Here’s a quick walkthrough of the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) process:
1. Find the book you’re looking for. If the book you’re looking for is at one of our libraries, this is very simple. Just find it in our catalog log in, and click “Request Physical Item” or “Request PDF of a Single Chapter,” depending on your needs. For book chapter requests please note that all scan requests must be under 50 pages. If the item you’re looking for is on the shelf, simply use the drop down menu to choose the library where you want to pick up the book and we’ll get to work! You will get an email when it’s ready to be picked up. If the item is checked out, you’ll have the option to “Request this book through InterLibrary Loan.” See the next step for more information.
2. If the book you’re looking for isn’t available through the University Libraries, you can request it through ILL. There are two main ways to get to the ILL form: The first one is through clicking the “Request this book by InterLibrary Loan” or “Request PDF of a Single Chapter” links on a book’s record. In the picture above they will be where the red box is. You can also find the form from any of our Libraries’ home pages, just hover over the “Services” tab and find “Borrowing From Another Library & Document Delivery.” Then click “Log In to Interlibrary Loan & Document Delivery” to create a request.
3. You’re ready to create an ILL request. If you’ve arrived at the ILL form from an InfoHawk+ record, good news – much of the information has already been filled out for you! Scroll through and enter all of the required information, click submit, and you’ll be on your way. If you’re looking for a book that’s not in the University of Iowa Libraries catalog, hover over the “New Requests” tab, select the appropriate category, and fill out all of the required information. There’s no such thing as too much information when looking for a book, so be specific. This will help the librarians to find the right item for you.
4. Now just sit back and wait. We work as quickly as possible to your items, but we can’t guarantee delivery times for anything (we are human!).You will get an email in your inbox as soon as your item is scanned at its pickup destination. You can also check on the status of your items under the History tab in the ILL system.
When navigating to the ILL page you might have seen something called UBorrow. This is an ILL system exclusive to the Big Ten Academic Alliance that works much like our other ILL system. For information and video tutorials to use UBorrow, check out the LibGuide.
Walking into the Engineering Library, you may not see what you’re expecting. In fact you may ask, where are all of the books? It may surprise you to learn that we have over 45,000 books in the library ready for you to check out. Here’s how you find them:
When you enter the library, you will see one bookshelf in the main area. This is where we keep our periodicals (think magazines, journals, etc). If you’re looking for an article that doesn’t have online access, check here – you might just find it.
Look to your left and you’ll see a set of stairs and an elevator. Take either to get to the basement.
You’ve made it to the basement! Looks like there’s some good study space here, but that’s not what we’re looking for. Let’s take a look to the left.
Ah, here are some books! And some more study space. Let’s find the book we’re looking for. All of our books are shelved using the Library of Congress system. Here’s a quick video on how that works, but you can always ask any employee, we would be happy to help you find a book.
Now that you’ve found your book, head back upstairs and to the Service Desk (you walked right by it when you entered the library). To check out your book, all you need is your IowaOne card (student ID).
There you go – you have a book! Keep an eye out for some special cases, which include permanent and course reserves. A permanent reserve is a book that would be difficult for us to replace if it got lost, so we just keep an extra eye on it. A course reserve is a book that is being used as a text for a class. Course reserves have a two-hour checkout so that everyone in the class has access. If a book you’re looking for is marked as one of these, just ask at the service desk.
When you talk to your engineering librarians, you may think that we talk about Patents and Standards too often, but patents are all around you, including in your jeans!
Born 1829 in Bavaria, Germany, Levi Strauss immigrated to the United States when he was sixteen when he immigrated to New York to escape religious discrimination by the German government (Strauss and his family were Jewish). When he arrived in America, Levi started working with his brothers at their dry goods store. In 1953 Strauss followed the thousands of hopeful people heading West for the Gold Rush. Strauss was not looking to mine any gold himself but was going to set up an expansion of his brothers’ store in California. Arriving in San Francisco, he established himself as an astute businessman, and over the next 20 years became wealthy and successful, helping to establish the first Jewish temple in San Francisco and supporting several charities.
Despite his name being so famously connected to the brand, Strauss did not actually sew the first pair of blue jeans. This was done by a tailor by the name of Jacob Davis. According to the story, Davis was approached by a farmer’s wife who asked if he could make her husband a pair of pants that wouldn’t wear out as quickly as his other pairs. At this point, the most common material for work clothes was denim. As a fabric, denim is very thick and strong, unlikely to tear and able to put up with the wear and tear from manual labor. Being an experienced Tailor, Davis knew that the weakest point of any garment is the seams. His solution was to add metal rivets to reinforce the seams that got the most wear: the tops of the pockets and the bottom of the zipper. Davis soon had a booming business using his unique design, and recognizing that this innovation could have widespread use, Davis wanted to file a patent. He could not afford the $81 fee to file himself (it would be approximately $2,000 in today’s money), so he reached out to the wealthy businessman from whom he had purchased the denim to make the pants – Levi Strauss. In his letter to Strauss he wrote that “The secret of them Pents is the Rivits [sic] that I put in those Pockets and I found the demand so large that I cannot make them up fast enough.” Strauss agreed to the partnership, and they were awarded their patent, #139,121, “An Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings” on May 20th, 1873. A fun fact about jeans is at this point in history they were called “waist overalls.” the term “jeans” didn’t become popular until the 1960’s.
Due to a fire that destroyed most of the records for the very early days of the company, we don’t have a lot of information on the internal workings. We do know, however, that Strauss worked hard from the beginning to protect his company. When a patent is filed, the filer is the sole person who can use that technology for 17 years. Strauss knew that after those 17 years he would face stiff competition from other companies, so he set to work developing a brand that would ensure that his customers would continue to buy his product even when there were comparable items on the market. He registered trademarks and spent time and energy creating a strong image brand, including their famous “two horses” logo. Understanding that their main consumers, laborers, were often immigrants who did not read English, Strauss developed a strong visual brand. He also went after other companies for patent infringement, winning three different lawsuits between 1874 and 1876 and was awarded over $2,000 in damages (approximately the equivalent of $54,000 in 2022).
The original Straus patent is now expired, and today you can find rivets on a range of clothing. Over the company’s history, Levi’s has created and maintained many patents and trademarks that helped them to protect their intellectual property. Want to learn more about patents? We have resources for that! A great place to start is with our Patents Subject Guide, which you can find through this link or on our homepage.
This week we are featuring successful chemical engineer and entrepreneur Dr. Kook-Wha Koh. Born in Korea, Kook-Wha studied Chemical Engineering at Seoul National University. She and her childhood sweetheart Kwang-Kuk Koh came to the US in 1965 to further their study in chemical engineering at the University of Iowa. They chose Iowa because of their interest in membrane separations, which was being pioneered at the time by department chair Karl Kammermeyer. Kook-Wha earned her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1970 with her thesis “Crystallinity and Denisty in Permeation of Carbon Dioxide and water Vapor through Polymers.” Following their time at Iowa, the Drs. Koh moved down to Texas where Kook-Wha completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University where she worked with heart surgery pioneer Michael DeBakey on his work with artificial hearts.
After Texas the Koh’s moved to Detroit where Kook-Wha established Chrysan Industries in 1977, headquartered in Plymouth, MI. Chrysan (which is the Korean word for chrysanthemum) is a global supplier of automotive, industrial, and aerospace lubricants and specialty chemicals. In 1980 the company was awarded its first patent – #4,218,329 – in metalworking fluid technology. The company also holds patents metalworking fluid technology, “formulated cutting oils, and synthetic coolants.” The company supplies to General Motors and Ford, and exports and distributes their products in Asia, Africa and South America.
Kook-Wha has now retired, and she and her husband spend their time traveling. They have the goal of visiting all of National Geographic’s 50 places everyone should see in their lifetime. They also use their retirement to “promote and ensure equal opportunities for minority business enterprises and women-owned businesses.”
Chrysan Industries. (n.d.). Chrysan Industries, Inc. Global Supplier of Automotive Lubricants and Specialty Chemicals. https://www.chrysanindustries.com/en/about-us#history-of-chrysan
University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Drs. Kwang-Kuk and Kook-Wha Koh. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa. https://engineering.uiowa.edu/alumni/awards/honor-wall/distinguished-engineering-alumni-academy-members/drs-kwang-kuk-and-kook
Avery Bang is putting her engineering skills to work to create social and economic opportunities by building bridges. The daughter of a civil engineer, Bang learned the importance of infrastructure early in life. Bang graduated from the University of Iowa in 2007 with dual degrees in Civil Engineering and Studio Art. In addition to her degrees from Iowa, she has a MS in Civil Engineering from Colorado University Boulder, and an MBA from the University of Oxford. While here at Iowa, she worked as a research assistant at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and completed an internship in structural engineering. She was very involved in student organizations, and was the president of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and founded Iowa’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
During a study abroad trip to Fiji, Bang saw the impact a well-placed bridge could make. In an interview for the film “Dream Big,” Bang said “One of the communities had recently opened a footbridge development project, and I was able to see firsthand how a simple bridge was transforming their everyday world. People could get to the doctor, to schools, and to markets they could never have reached before. I directly experienced how structures change people’s lives. That’s when I really started taking engineering seriously – it became both a passion and a purpose for me.” The next year, Bang joined Bridges to Prosperity, establishing their University program. In two semesters, she and a team built a bridge in a remote area of Peru.
Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) was founded in 2001 with the mission to build bridges to connect rural communities to medical, academic, and economic opportunities using bridges that span rivers, valleys, and other geographic obstacles. According to their website, their projects have impacted 1.3 million people. Benefits of these project include, a 12% increase in enrollment in school, an 18% increase in medical visits, and a 30% increase in labor income and 75% increase in farm profits for the community. They have completed projects in Rwanda, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Bolivia. These projects partner with local communities to ensure that these bridges are monitored and maintained regularly.
University of Iowa Civil and Environmental Engineering. (2015, December 18). Alumna Avery Bang Honored as One of 15 Inspiring Women CEOs that Impacted The World In 2015 | Civil and Environmental Engineering. https://cee.engineering.uiowa.edu/news/alumna-avery-bang-honored-one-15-inspiring-women-ceos-impacted-world-2015
University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Avery L. Bang. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa. https://engineering.uiowa.edu/alumni/awards/honor-wall/distinguished-engineering-alumni-academy-members/avery-l-bang
George Nissen was born in Blairstown, Iowa in 1914 and moved to Cedar Rapids as a child. It was at the local YMCA that he would learn both tumbling and diving. In 1930, 16 year-old Nissen attended a circus performance where he saw acrobats falling onto safety nets, finishing their descents with somersaults. Nissen considered the opportunities for gymnasts like him using a similar apparatus. Over the next few years, he would create a few prototypes using materials he could find, including iron from the local scrapyard and his own bed.
Nissen brought his athletic and academic skills to Iowa City as a student here at the University. He graduated in 1937 with a degree in Business Studies. During his time at school, he was an active member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, a three-time NCAA gymnastics champion, and participated in the annual Dolphin Shows – aquatic showcases that featured divers and acrobatics. Upon graduation, Nissen and two of his friends joined forces as a traveling acrobatic group, utilizing the Nissen’s trampoline as part of their act. The Three Leonardo’s, as they were known, ended their touring when Nissen joined the Navy to fight in World War II.
Nissen would receive the patent for his “Tumbling Device” on March 6, 1945, for which he would later register the trademark “trampoline,” inspired by “el trampolin,” Spanish for “diving board.” He then got to work using the knowledge from his Business Studies degree to market his invention. Some of his first buyers were the United States Military and NASA, who used it as a tool to train pilots and astronauts to quickly adapt to changing orientations. Working with Scott Carpenter, a pilot who would later become an astronaut, Nissen created a game called “Spaceball.” Check out this short video to see this fun sport that combines elements of volleyball, basketball, tumbling, and other sports.
The trampoline’s popularity would soon explode, and soon they were both exercise and play equipment. In the 1960’s, trampoline parks began to spring up, similar to those that have gained popularity in the past few years. However, these quickly gained a reputation for being dangerous, which Nissen blamed on poor training of the users, staff, and owners, and discouraged this kind of use. In 1962 the International Gymnastics Federation recognized trampolining as an official sport, but it wouldn’t be until the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 that it would become an Olympic sport. Nissen, 86, was present to see the sport he had created bounce onto the largest stage imaginable, and was even invited to jump on the Olympic trampoline.
Nissen passed away in 2010 at the age of 96. He had spent his entire life advocating for his invention and building a company rooted in passion. Today trampolines are as popular as ever, both in the backyard and the gym.
Covington, A. (2021, July 30). The Bizarre and Utterly American History of Trampolining – the Olympics Most Airborne Sport. Esquire. https://www.esquire.com/sports/a37182930/tokyo-olympics-trampoline-trampolining-history-101/
George Nissen. (n.d.). Lemelson-MIT. https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/george-nissen
Hevesi, D. (2010, April 13). George Nissen, Father of the Trampoline, Dies at 96. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/us/13nissen.html
Kindy, D. (2020, March 5). How the Trampoline Came to Be. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-trampoline-came-be-180974343/
Time Machine: George Nissen, trampoline inventor. (2016, September 10). The Gazette. https://www.thegazette.com/news/time-machine-george-nissen-trampoline-inventor/
University of Iowa. (1937). University of Iowa Hawkeye Yearbook, 1937. Student Publications, Inc.
Snowflakes are tiny works of art, and the science of snowflake photography gives us a unique insight to that world. The man who developed snowflake photography was Wilson Alwyn Bentley, known in his later years as Snowflake Bentley. Born in 1865 in Jericho, Vermont, Bentley’s research of snow and weather patterns started as a teenager, studying snowflakes under a microscope on his parents’ farm. He drew sketch after sketch of his snowflakes, but when he stumbled upon information of microscope photography, he convinced his father, who was practical to a fault, to purchase a camera with the appropriate equipment for his next endeavor.
It would take Bentley more than a year to find success. The ice crystals would melt quickly, and the photo developing process took a lot of time and effort, especially considering that Bentley was a newcomer to photography. After much trial and error, Bentley had success on February 15, 1885 when he got his first clear image, also known as a photomicrograph. He is quoted as saying “The day that I developed the first negative made by this method, and found it good, I felt almost like falling on my knees beside that apparatus and worshiping it! It was the greatest moment of my life.” Because of his lack of education, Bentley felt his contributions were unworthy of note. Eventually, he met a local professor, who convinced him to submit his first article “A Study of Snow Crystals,” which was published in 1898 in Popular Scientific Monthly. This opened to floodgates, and soon he was publishing articles and traveling the country to give presentations.
Even living in snowy New England, he couldn’t work with snowflakes year-round. He eventually expanded his studies to include other precipitation, including rainfall, mist, and dew, but snow remained his passion. In 1931, he published his life’s work Snow Crystals. This book included almost 2,500 photomicrographs of snowflakes. If you’re interested in seeing Bentley’s work, you can see some of his photomicrographs through the Smithsonian’s online collections, or you find a copy of Snow Crystals at the Science Library. Later that year, Bentley caught pneumonia and passed away at home on December 23rd, 1931.
Bentley created his photomicrographs by capturing the snowflakes on white velvet, then scratching the emulsion off the plate to create the back background. This allowed Bentley to edit out non-symmetrical parts, which contributed to the myth that all snowflakes are completely symmetrical. Our current technology allows for more accurate images of snowflakes. With a willingness to stand outside and a DSLR camera (which you can check out from our tool library), and a macro lens, you too can take your own stunning snowflake photographs! If you follow photographer Craig Goodwin’s advice, the process of snowflake photography hasn’t changed much from Bentley’s time. If you want to read more about Goodwin’s process, you can find his blog post here. If you’re not a photographer, or aren’t interested in sitting outside to catch snowflakes, you can see some great flakes inThe Art of the Snowflake: a photograph album by Kenneth Libbrecht, available here at the Engineering Library.
Goodwin, C. (2019, March 2). How to Photograph Snowflakes (and Blow Your Mind). Craig Goodwin Photography. https://www.craiggoodwin.com/blog/2019/2/21/how-to-photograph-snowflakes
Now that we have entered the snowy time in the year, we might as well embrace the snow. Although we may not see snow as a positive thing, there are many cultures that take advantage of its unique properties. The Inuit peoples of North America and Greenland use snow to create igloos, also spelled “iglu.” This form of shelter is also sometimes known as an aputiak. These temporary buildings are built entirely of snow, and are usually used as hunting lodges.
While a structure made out of snow may seem like a chilly prospect, but they Inuit hunters could stay in their igloos for entire winters quite comfortably. Not only does the igloo block cold wind, the densely packed snow acts as an insulator to keep those inside warm. In fact, the longer an igloo is used, the more durable it becomes! As people move around inside the structure, the snow melts but refreezes as temperatures drop, creating thin layers of ice. In fact, a well built igloo can support the weight of an entire person.
But how are igloos built? The main component needed is packed snow. Most snow that falls from the sky in Iowa isn’t going to be dense enough. If you want the appropriate building material you’ll either have to move north – at least to Northern Minnesota. If you find a snow bank that has been packed by wind, you may be able to cut it out and use it, but you will likely need to put in some extra work to pack snow to make blocks.
Once you choose how large you would like your structure to be, you can begin building. These blocks should not be completely square, but wedge-shaped. This, combined with building in a spiral allows for a self-supported dome. If your dome is completely semi-circular, not all of the blocks share compressive forces, making it more likely to fall. Instead, build your igloo to be a parabolic or catenary arch, more egg-shaped than the dome on the Old Capitol. If you want all the ins and outs of the project, come in and check out How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Shelters by Norbert E. Yankielun.
If you don’t think you can make your own igloo from scratch, you don’t have to be completely kept out of the fun. A Canadian company called PlaySnow makes igloo-shaped support structures that can be covered in snow to make a structure that is sturdy and safe from collapse. They are designed for children, so take that into consideration before you purchase one for your wintertime fun, since a too-small igloo is uncomfortable.