Happy Casual Pi Day!

We love and celebrate Pi Day here at the Engineering Library on or around the traditional day of March 14th (3/14), but did you know that there another Pi Day? Pi can be expressed with the fraction 22/7, so if you’re partial to pastry, you can celebrate Pi Day on July 22nd. You can also call it pi approximation day, if you want to be more formal.

PI APPROXIMATION DAY - July 22, 2022 - National Today

Here’s some fun Pi facts to get you started with your celebrations:

  1. If you don’t want to use the word “pi” or are looking for alternatives, you can use “Archimedes’ constant,” “the circular constant” or “Ludolph’s number.” 
  2. Mathematician William Jones first proposed using the Greek letter as shorthand for the constant in 1706. Before its adoption, pi was referred to by a Latin phrase which roughly translates to “the quantity which, when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference.”
  3. The world record for memorization of decimals of pi is 70,000 and is held by Rajveer Meena. Meena established this record in 2015 and wore a blindfold for the 10 hours it took him to complete this feat. If you want to try your hand at beating the record, you can use techniques like memorizing smaller groups or spatial visualization techniques.
  4. You don’t need 70,000 digits of pi to make accurate calculations. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses the first 15 digits after the decimal (3.141592653589793) for interplanetary navigation calculations.
  5. The first known algorithm for calculating pi used polygons. Archimedes calculated pi by calculating the perimeters of inscribed and circumscribed polygons. He doubled the number of sides of the polygons, finally reaching a 96-sided polygon and found that pi was between 223/71 and 22/7 (does that number look familiar to you?).Archimedes's Approximation Of Pi - Amazing Discovery Of Mathematics-  Archimedes

Happy World Bicycle Day!

It’s World Bicycle Day!

In 1818 the Laufmaschine (“running machine” or draisine was invented by Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun. He was inspired to create this contraption because of a  shortage of horses. The Laufmaschine was designed with no pedals, propelled solely by the running rider. It also had no turning or braking mechanisms, meaning that it was not very safe or useful, but they were popular. The Laufmaschine was the first widely-available mode of transportation that did not require an animal, meaning that the average person could enjoy it and not just the wealthy. 

A man on a Laufmaschine

Building off this popularity, inventors across Europe started to improve von Drais’ design. Steering mechanisms were added, and pedals were attached to the front wheel. These were not very comfortable, and because of the rough ride were commonly called “boneshakers.” Bicycles as we would recognize them today were invented in 1860 by Ernest Michaux and Pierre Lallement, and were known as velocipedes. It would take several innovations before they would be the most popular ride on the road. Perhaps the most famous (and amusing) innovation was the addition of a large front wheel. Bikes in this style became known as penny-farthings, and were extremely popular in the 1870’s and 80’s. Eugene Meyer is generally credited as the inventor of the penny-farthing, although there is some dispute amongst enthusiasts. Meyer patented the wire-spoke tension wheel in 1869. This style of wheel is still used on motorcycles today, and was a huge improvement over the wooden wheels used previously. The large front wheel was added for stability, and bicycle racing clubs popped up all over the world. There was one major danger with penny-farthings and their large front wheels: headers. A header is when the rider of the bicycle would fall over the front of the bicycle, falling head first from a height. 

Penny Farthing: Facts and Information - Primary Facts
A man riding a penny-farthing bicycle

The safety bicycle was invented in 1885 by John Kemp Starley. Starley, who called his invention the “Rover,” never patented his invention, although it had several improvements in safety and ease of use. The Rover had equally sized wheels, a wide range for steering, and a rear-wheel chain drive. In 1888 John Dunlop repopularized the pneumatic bicycle tire. These two combined meant that riding a bicycle was smoother and safer than ever. Since then, bikes have stayed much the same, but improved with better materials and designs for frames, brakes and gear systems. 

Rover 'Safety' bicycle, 1885 | Science Museum Group Collection
The Rover Safety Bicycle

Looking for some reading to celebrate World Bicycle Day? Here are my recommendations:

If you would like to learn more about the history of bikes, come in and check out The Mechanical Horse: how the Bicycle Reshaped American Life by Margaret Guroff.

The Mechanical Horse How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life By Margaret Guroff

If your bike could use a little bit of work, come find The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair by Todd Downs.

The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Road & Mountain Bikes: Downs, Todd, Editors of Bicycling Magazine: 9781605294872: Books - Amazon

Do you have a need for speed? Racing Bicycles: 100 Years of Steel by David Rapley may be for you.

Racing Bicycles: 100 Years of Steel: Rapley, David: 9781864704822: Books: Amazon.com

And for those of you who love to tinker, check out Build Your Own Electric Bicycle by Matthew Slinn.

Build Your Own Electric Bicycle eBook by Matthew Slinn - 9780071606226 | Rakuten Kobo United States

You can find all these and more here at the Engineering Library. We’re open until 5:00 today, so ride on in!

Gingerbread Engineering

Snow will soon be here and it’s time for wintertime traditions – which includes gingerbread creations! National Gingerbread House Day is December 12th. Early history of the recipe is hazy, and may range to as far back as Ancient Greece in 2400 BCE to France in 992 AD. Early on, gingerbread was used in religious ceremonies or as a digestive aid. Gingerbread cookies as we now usually enjoy them, in fun shapes with decorations is usually credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who asked for cookies to be made in the shapes of visiting dignitaries. Gingerbread was incredibly popular across medieval Europe, and there were even Gingerbread Fairs to attend where you could enjoy gingerbread shaped according to the season – flowers for springtime, and birds in the fall. Because of tall of the spices required in the recipe, gingerbread was considered very high class, and those rich enough to have it in their own homes would sometimes decorate it with gold leaf. 

The Germans began building gingerbread houses in the 16th century, and the practice became more widespread after the Grimm Brothers popularized Hansel and Gretel in 1812. Since then, gingerbread projects have turned into feats of engineering. The current world record holder for the largest gingerbread house was created by the Traditions Golf Club in Bryan Texas. This house covered 2,500 square feet, required 1,800 pounds of butter, and 1,080 ounces of ginger. It was so large that it required a building permit! If you don’t have the space to try your hand at breaking this record, maybe you can try breaking Jon Lovitch’s record for the largest gingerbread village. Lovitch’s latest record-holding village (he has held the world record 4 times) contained 1,251 structures. If you try to break a record, be careful! The rules are very specific. One recent attempt was disqualified because it contained non-edible components. 

Want to make your own gingerbread house to celebrate National Gingerbread House Day? Here are some tips:

  • Use a European recipe for your cookies. American gingerbread recipes tend to be softer, which is great for cookies, but not very helpful structurally. You can learn more about the chemistry of baking in Cooking For Geeks, which can be found in our collection. Check it out here!
  • Use a thick royal icing as your mortar. Finding the right consistency can be difficult, as it needs to be runny enough to easily spread, but thick enough to stay put. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use support! While using an internal support will disqualify you from earning any world records, but you can use a can of beans to help prop up your walls while the icing dries can ensure that the icing is able to dry in the correct position and free up your hands to move onto the next part of your project.
  • Plan ahead! Use your engineering skills to set yourself up for success. 
  • Get Creative. You don’t have to make a candy-covered cottage. Search online for fun ideas. Add lights, or try a different shape. See below for some examples:
Elevate things with a gingerbread treehouse


Recreate your favorite famous buildings in cookie form


A geodesic home would be a fun and challenging build


No need for your house to stay in one place. A gingerbread camper is a great idea!

Personally, I want to see Kinnick Stadium made out of Gingerbread. Are you up to the challenge? If you build a gingerbread creation, show us!  You can send it to us on any of our social media channels @uienglib on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 



10+ Gingerbread House Tips for This Holiday Season 2021. (2021, September 19). Best Gingerbread Houses. https://bestgingerbreadhouses.com/gingerbread-house-tips/

Avey, T. (2014, May 28). History of Gingerbread | The History Kitchen. PBS Food. https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-gingerbread/

Guinness World Records. (2017, January 6). Largest gingerbread village. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-gingerbread-village

McCandless, M. (2016, December 14). Gingerbread Houses – A Delicious History | Facts From the Stacks. Bellevue University Facts From the Stacks. https://blogs.bellevue.edu/library/index.php/2016/12/gingerbread-houses-a-delicious-history/

Wilson, A. (2018, December 22). A brief history of the gingerbread house. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/dec/22/a-brief-history-of-the-gingerbread-house

August 24 is National Waffle Day!

Happy National Waffle Day! Make sure to celebrate by enjoying a waffle or two. Waffles may seem like they are not connected in any way to engineering, but engineering is the science of applied anything. 

We celebrate on August 24th because it was on this day in 1869 that Cornelius Swarthout received the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. Swarthout however did not invent the waffle – waffles had been a staple of European cuisine since the 14th century, with the first known recipe being recorded in Le Ménagier de Paris by an anonymous author. 

If all of this has made you hungry, don’t despair. Come on in and check out Cooking for Geeks: real science, great hacks, and good food by Jeff Potter and try out a recipe for yeast waffles. As with all baking, making waffles includes chemistry, so just call your kitchen a lab. Real applicable experience! If a Belgian waffle is not your style or you don’t have a waffle iron on hand, you can enjoy some other kinds of waffles – maybe a waffle cone, or even waffle fries (you don’t need a waffle iron for those). 


If you want to get a little more structural, that’s an option too. Modern waffle iron inventors have improved the design since Swarthout’s day, and now your sweet squares can come in just about any shape. You can make a waffle that is definitely not a moon, or build your own waffle tower made of waffle bricks.

Have you celebrated Waffle Day before? What are your favorite toppings? Let us know below!



Newell, T. (2016, March 25). 12 Waffle Facts You’d Be Hard-Pressed To Find Anywhere Else. FoodBeast. https://www.foodbeast.com/.

Seidman, R. (2010, August 24). Waffle Iron Patented – Smithsonian Libraries / Unbound. Smithsonian Libraries. https://blog.library.si.edu/blog/.

Swarthout, C. (1869). Waffle Iron (94043). U.S. Patent Office.

National Worship of Tools Day!!!


Can you imagine a life without tools? We can’t! And you don’t have to! We have approximately 233 tools in our Tool Library – and are always adding more! 


We have all sorts of things! We have laptotps and iPads, chargers and cables,  hammers and screwdrivers, 3D scanners and hot glue guns, GoPro cameras and Raspberry Pi – all available to check out! We also have an Occulus Rift for use in the library! 



Need a video game screwdriver set? We’ve got that! Wire cutter/stripper? Yup, we’ve got that. Sound level meter? We have that, too! Multimeter? Projector? Heat Gun Kit? Oscilloscope? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! We have those!!  

We have 3D scanners, cables and chargers (63!), 5 laptops, 12 iPads, calipers, a 25-foot tape measure, speed gun, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, socket set . . .

And, we have just added 2 Video Conference Meeting Cameras (Owls) and a vibration meter! 


Check our Tool Library to see everything that is available!

Happy National Worship of Tools Day!!



Other Resources:

Hardord, Tim. 2017. 50 Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy. New York : Riverhead Books. Engineering Library T15 .H343 2017

Worship of Tools Day : 2019 National Worship of Tools.  Dayfinder.com Date accessed: March 2019.


It’s Pi Day 2018!!


March 14th is Pi Day!!!


Beginning geometry students might remember finding the area of a circle – pi x radius squared…. But, what is Pi (π) and why does it rate its very own day?

Pi is one of the most famous and mysterious of numbers. Defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it’s diameter, Pi seems simple. However, it is an irrational number. An irrational number cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction and the decimal representation therefore never ends, nor does it ever settle into a permanent repeating pattern. Scientists have calculated billions of digits of Pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…. with no end in sight. It could be calculated to infinity and there would be absolutely no way to know which number would come next.

Pi is not only irrational, it is also transcendental! A transcendental number is a number that is not a root of any algebraic equation having integral coefficients, as π  or e. All transcendental numbers are irrational, but not all irrational numbers are transcendental. . .

Pi is used all around us every day – Christian Constanda, the University of Tulsa’s C.S. Oliphant professor of mathematical sciences, says, “Look at a football: when you compute the volume, then Pi gets involved in the formula.” Constanda also said, “If you drive through a puddle, creating a wave with the car, that involves Pi. If you see a tornado, that definitely involves Pi.”

Designers Cristian Ilies Vasile and Martin Krzywinski transformed the number pi into stunning works of art. Check out Martin’s website for an explanation of how he creates his amazing works.


Dots are used to represent the adjacency between digits showing the progression and transition for the first 10,000 digits of pi. DailyMail
Accuracy of 10,000 rational approximations of π for each m/n and m=1…10000. Martin Krzywinski.



Want to see what 100,00 digits of Pi look like? Go here.

Some Pi Day Fun Facts:

  • In the Star Trek© television episode, Wolf in the Fold, Spock defeats an evil enemy in the Enterprise’s computer system. How? He ordered it to “compute to the last digit the value of pi.” Which we know can not be computed!
  • The number 360 occupies the 360th position in the digits of Pi.
  • Divide the length of a river – with all the bends and curves – by the length of the river would be “as the crow flies,” the average ration will be approximately Pi. Watch this youtube video for an explanation!
  • In 2008 a crop circle with Pi embedded in it appeared near Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, England.

Want to impress your friends with how many digits of Pi you can recite? Here is a song that should help you remember….

Code Embed: Cannot use CODECJ3 as a global code as it is being used to store 4 unique pieces of code in 15 posts

The Pi Song. Originally sung by Hard ‘N Phirm. Sept. 17, 2006

Take a look around today – how many instances of Pi can you find? Or sit and contemplate a piece of your favorite pie…

Just remember – you’d be irrational to not celebrate Pi Day!



Adrian, Y. E. O.. The pleasures of pi,e and other interesting numbers. 2006. Singapore : World Scientific. Engineering Library QA95 .A2 2006

Posamentier, Alfred S. 2004. [Pi] : a biography of the world’s most mysterious number. Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books. Engineering Library QA484 .P67 2004

Maths has never looked so appealing! Oct. 3, 2013. dailymail.com

The Pi Song. Originally sung by Hard ‘N Phirm. Sept. 17, 2006. youtube.com

Mead, Wendy. March 13, 2015. Fascinating Facts About Pi Day & Birthday Boy Albert Einstein. A&E Television Network, LLC. Bio.

Rouse, Margaret. Definition : Transcendental Number. TechTarget. WhatIs.com

West, Marc. July 1, 2008. Pi appears in a crop circle. +plus magazine .

Interesting Facts about Pi. 2016. Buzzle.com

Walton, Rod. March 14, 2014. Pi common in everyday life, not just dessert. Tulsa World .

Swanson, Ana. March 14, 2015. 10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi. The Washington Post .

Martin Krzywinski Science Art. 1999-2018.  Martin Krzywinski.


Other Resources:

Stewart, Ian. 2013. Visions of infinity : the great mathematical problems. New York, NY : Basic Books. Engineering Library QA93 .S75 2013

Stewart, Ian. 2015. Professor Stewart’s incredible numbers. New York : NY : Basic Books. Engineering Library QA241 .S8123 2015

Happy Pi Day (3.14) Domino Spiral. March 13, 2011. youtube.com