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. 

 

Sources:

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!!!

IT IS 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!!

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286….

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!

 

Resources:

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

It’s National Puzzle Day!!

Are you addicted to Sudoku? Rubik’s Cube© ? Logic puzzles?

Well, you are in luck, because —

January 29th is National Puzzle Day!!

 

  • Nothing is a difficult as it seems
  • Nothing is as easy as it looks
  • Puzzles always have one, several, or no solutions
(Gianni A. Sarcone in the introduction to Impossible Folding Puzzles and Other Mathematical Paradoxes)

SO many puzzles! Where does one even begin!?

How about Tic-Tac-Toe! 

How much time did you spend playing tick-tac-toe when you were a kid?  Did you realize the person who had the first go was at a disadvantage? The first player actually has to draw one connecting line longer than the opponent.  So, if you are the first to go and still win, that’s impressive! If you add more squares – say 18 – there are 153 connecting lines. Which means there are 3153 game situations – roughly equivalent to the number of particles in the universe. Searching for a winning strategy is quite impossible and sometimes referred to as “computational chaos.” I had trouble winning with just 9 squares….

Another popular grid puzzle is Sudoku. The most common version of the puzzle consists of 9 squares by 9 squares – a grid of 81 squares. The grid is divided into 9 blocks, each containing 9 squares. The rules: each of the 9 blocks must contain all the numbers 1 – 9 within the squares. Each number can only appear once in a row, column or box. The tricky part is that each vertical 9-square column or horizontal 9-square line – within the larger square – must also contain each of the numbers 1 – 9, with no repeats… Each puzzle has only one solution…

If that isn’t challenging enough, there are also circular Sudoku puzzles!

Each of the 4 rings and 8 quarter circles have the numbers 1 through 8 (unlike the square version which has 9). Of course, you can always have 3-ring puzzles, or 5 and 6 ring puzzles. Variants and puzzles can be found in Nets, Puzzles, and Postmen.

How many of us have tried to solve the Rubik’s Cube© ?

The classic Rubik’s Cube© consists  of 26 cubelets on 3 levels. Each level of cubelets can be twisted by 90 or 180 degrees. If you twist the layers independently the cube can be brought into approximately 43 million, trillion possible states of the cube (yes, really 43 million trillion!) … The goal? Make each side of nine cubelets the same color. Tomas Rokicki, a Stanford trained mathematician, ran a program on the supercomputer at Sony Pictures Imageworks. The computing time required the equivalent of 50 years of computing – and with solving more than 25 million billion configurations none were recorded that required fewer than 22 moves. Are you able to do it in 22 moves? Are you able to do it in fewer than 22 moves?

Are you able to solve it in a minute and a half? This robot made with Legos© and Raspberry Pi (we have the Raspberry Pi 2 in our Tool Library!) can!

 

Ready for the grown-up version of the baby donut stacker?

The Tower of Hanoi is a much more complicated form of the donut stacker. It was invented by the French mathematician, Edouard Lucas, and was first sold as a toy in 1883. The goal is to transfer the tower of 8 disks to one of the 2 vacant pegs in the fewest moves possible…without putting a larger disk on a smaller one…. For 8 disks that will take 255 moves… If you haven’t figured it out for yourself, the complete mathematical formulas are on pages 196-200 in Famous Puzzles of Great Mathematicians.

 

 

Logic puzzles more your style? Try to solve these – good luck!!

  • Wine & Water:
    • A dishonest servant takes 3 pints of wine from a barrel and replaces those pints with the same amount of water. He repeats his theft twice, removing a total of 9 pints, replacing those pints with water. As a result, the diluted wine remaining in the barrel lost half of its former strength. How much wine did the barrel originally hold?
  • Animals in a field:
    • A cow, a goat, and a goose graze on grass in a field. The cow eats the same quantity of grass as the goat and the goose together. the cow and the goat eat all of the grass in the field in 45 days, the cow and the goose in 60 days, and the goat and the goose in 90 days. How many days will it take the cow, the goat, and the goose together to eat all of the grass, assuming that the grass grows at the same daily rate?
  • Compose plane figures/Fibonacci’s numbers:
    • Make a rectangle without any gaps by using small squares whoe sides are the Fibonacci numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 21.

(answers to these puzzles can be found in Famous Puzzles of Great Mathematicians.)

Want more logic puzzles? Origami, Eleusis, and the Soma Cube, by Martin Gardner presents (among others) a puzzle called The Monkey and the Coconuts…

Ever heard of the “pea and the sun paradox?” A solid of any size (a small pea for example), can be partitioned into a finite number of pieces and then reassembled to form another solid of any specified shape and volume, (the sun, for example). Is that even possible? Author Leonard Wapner explores this (and many more) puzzles in The Pea & the Sun : A Mathematical Paradox.

Or perhaps you would rather eat the puzzle? Try the chocolate puzzle with real chocolate bars and enjoy them once you have solved the puzzle!

 

 

 

The solution may found on page 67 of Impossible Folding Puzzles and Other Mathematical Paradoxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Smullyan, Raymond M. 2009. Satan, Cantor and infinity : mind-boggling puzzles. Mineola, NY : Dover Publications. Engineering Library QA 95 .S5 2009 

Szpior, George. 2010. A mathematical medley : fifty easy pieces on mathematics. Providence, R.I. : American Mathematical Society. Engineering Library QA93 .S973 2010

Gardner, Martin. Hexaflexagons, probability paradoxes, and the tower of Hanoi. 2008. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press. Engineering Library QA95 .G247 2008

Higgins, Peter M. Nets, puzzles, and postmen. 2007. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press. Engineering Library QA95 .H54 2007

Clarke, Barry R. 2013. Mathematical puzzles & curiosities. Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications. Engineering Library QA95 .C53 2013

Petkovic, Miodrag S. Famous puzzles of great mathematicians.Providence, R.I. : American Mathematical Society. Engineering Library QA95 .P4358 2009 2009

Sarcone, Gianni A. 2013.  Impossible folding puzzles and other mathematical paradoxes. Mineola, New York : Dover Publications. Engineering Library QA95 .S315 2013

Gardner, Martin. 2008. Origami, Eleusis, and the Soma cube: Martin Garnder’s mathematical diversions. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press. Engineering Library AQ95 .G2975 2008

Wapner, Leonard M. 2005. The pea & the sun : a mathematical paradox.  Wellesley, MA : A.K. Peters. Engineering Library QA248 .W29 2005

Count on Sudoku. 2005. counton.org

Lego Rubik’s Cube Solver.youtube . Date accessed January 31, 2017

Raspberry Pi-powered Lego robot can solve a Rubik’s cube.The Next Web B.V. January 31, 2017. TNW.