New Exhibit: Creating a Terror-ific Halloween!

Halloween is coming up fast! (I know, scary, right?)

We have just the exhibit to get you in the mood!!

Engineering Library Halloween Exhibit
Engineering Library Halloween Exhibit

We have a series of books tailored for the “evil genius” in you. Including Holography Projects for the Evil Genius. You might just find the way to build the perfect hologram to scare your roommate.   Or how about a voice transmitter to “throw” your voice? More Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius has all the info you need to make your own!

Interested in making your own Halloween costumes and scary decorations? Check out Make: Technology on Your Time, a journal that can help you do just that, and walk you through how to make your scary ideas come to life (so to speak….).  More Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius will tell you how to make your own light saber and how about a Wookiee pumpkin to go along with that? The Star Wars Craft Book will show you how! (Don’t miss the tip on the bottom of page 72 – use a fake pumpkin and it won’t rot and you can use it for years!)

Or do you just want to know how those Gummi Worms are made? Check out How It’s Made and see how some of those Halloween staples are made – learn about special effects makeup, hard candy, holograms, chocolate, and gummie candy!

And since Halloween isn’t complete without a skeleton, we have a skeleton of a Macaque monkey on display!  Interested in the biomechanics of animal and human bodies? Biomechanics of the Musculo-skeletal System is a comprehensive resource!   A big thank you to the Museum of Natural History for the loan of the skeleton!

No matter how you plan to spend your Halloween, stop by our Terror-ific Halloween exhibit!


More Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius. Engineering Library QP301 .B565 2007
More Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius. Engineering Library QP301 .B565 2007

Iannini, Robert E. 2006. More electronic gadgets for the evil genius. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TK9965 .I253 2006

Make. 2005 – . Make: technology on your time.  Sebastopol CA : O’Reilly Media. Engineering Library, no call number.

Burton, Bonnie. 2011. The Star Wars craft book. New York : Del Rey/Ballantine Books. Engineering Library TT157 .B87 2011.

How it’s made (Television Program). 2010. How it’s made. Seasons 1 and 2. [Silver Springs MD] : Discovery Communications. Engineering Circulation Desk Video Record 37144 DVD.

Biomechanics of the musculo-skeletal system. 2007. Chichester, West Sussex, England : Hoboken NJ : John Wiley & Sons. Engineering Library QP 301 .B565 2007.

More Resources:

Ultimate Fog Chiller. Date Accessed Sept. 25, 2015.

Make your own gummy worms. Todd’s Kitchen Date accessed Sept. 25, 2015.

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. (not available as of 10/10/18)

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.

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

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

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