LEGO in the Engineering Library

Getting worn out by school? Take a break and talk LEGO with us! We have many (many many) LEGO books to help you build a variety of things.

If you’re just getting started and want to learn the terminology, tips, and tricks before you begin to build, check out The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide by Allan Bedford

If you’ve been building with LEGO for a while, adding in more complicated components like motors, computers, and remote controls can really up your building. Try Practical LEGO Technics: bring your LEGO creations to life by Mark Rollins or Arduino and LEGO Projects by John Lazar.

If bringing your precious LEGO collection to your dorm doesn’t appeal to you, there are virtual options! Try Building with Virtual LEGO: getting started with LEGO Digital Designer, Ldraw, and Mecabricks by John Baichtal.

Check out some really cool and unique builds with Beautiful LEGO: Wild! by Mike DoyleExtreme Bricks: spectacular, record-breaking, and astounding LEGO projects from around the world by Sarah Herman, or The Art of LEGO Scale Modeling by Dennis Glaasker and Dennis Bosman.


If you don’t feel like building but are still interested in learning about LEGO, check out The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal and Joe Meno. 

Now go get building!

E-Books on the Shelves!

If you go browsing through our shelves you might see something you’re not expecting – a VHS case! No, we did not start bringing videotapes into our collection, you’ve just found one of our physical e-books.

Physical e-books can be found on the shelves with other books

We’ve chosen a few of our most popular e-books to have physical representation on the shelves. This way, when you’re browsing for a subject you might run across a helpful e-book you wouldn’t seen before. Getting the book is very simple, just use your phone to scan the QR code!

QR Code is on the spine

 If you want to remember the book but don’t have time to read? Open the case and take a flyer! The flyers have information on the book along with a QR code so you can find it again when you have time. If you take the last flyer please let us know at the front desk so we can put more in. 

Flyers can be found inside the case

Check the shelves and try it for yourself!

Kicking off Creative Kick-Start!

Last weekend we kicked off football season, but now let’s kick off Creative Kick-Start! Creative Kick-Start is a program created by the Engineering Library and Engineering Technology Center that gives all engineering students a shot at some funding to bring their ideas to life. This year we will be awarding $750 to up to 10 projects. Ready to get started? Here’s the inside scoop:

  1. Come up with an idea. We don’t have any specific parameters, so get creative! It doesn’t need to solve all the problems in the world (but you can do that if you want). If you want some inspiration visit the Creative Kick-Start homepage where you can read about past winners. 
  2. Find a faculty or staff sponsor and have them sign off on your project. Try to find someone who has some experience or understanding in the type of project you’re taking on so you can get some guidance from them. 
  3. Fill out the application. Applications are due Friday, October 28.
  4. Wait. We won’t make you wait too long. Winners are announced soon after the deadline.
  5. Winners will pick up their Kick-Start RedBox and Funds. This box contains resources, contact information, and deadlines for the rest of the program.
  6. Get to making! You’ll need to turn in progress reports January 27th and March 10th to show what you’ve been up to. 
  7. Make a poster highlighting what you have learned. 
  8. Present your project and poster at the College of Engineering Annual Research Open House in Early April 2023. It’s not a problem if your end product doesn’t match your proposal, the goal of this program is to get you to try. If you were able to bring your whole idea into being, that’s great! If not, that’s also great! Either way, you’ll be presenting what you learned at the Research Open House. 

Time to get started! Find full details, past projects, and the application on the Creative Kick-Start Funding homepage

Find your textbooks on Course Reserve!

You’ve made it through your second week of classes – congrats! Did you know that you can check out most of your course textbooks here at the Engineering Library? There’s no need to carry your textbook across campus if you need to work through a few problems during a break in the Seamans Center. You can come in and check it out for up to two hours! Here’s a walkthrough of how to find your books using the example of finding a book for Dr. Murhammer’s class. 

The easiest way to find the book you’re looking for is to search by your professor’s last name in the InfoHawk+ 

You can narrow down your results on the left side of the next screen, including by course name, instructor, and course ID. Narrowing down like this can be helpful, especially if your professor is an author or if someone who shares their last name is.

If we have an item on the shelf for a course reserve, you’ll see a little purple icon that say’s “Course.” If you’ve refined your results by Course ID, then that means it’s for your class. If not, you can find the number, title of the class, and professor’s name above the icon.

If your book is on course reserve you can check it out by asking at the front desk. Just like when you look it up, it’s easiest if you know the professor’s name. You can check out course reserve materials for two hours at a time. 


Find a study space

Get your study skills ready for the new school year! The Engineering Library has several study spaces available to fit your study style.

Group Study

Even when you’re in the library you don’t always have to be silent. If you have a group project or if you have more success studying with a group, we have options for you! 

For groups of 2 to 4 (or even one person) you can reserve one of our two Pods. These small rooms include a large table, a white board, and a large screen that you can connect to using the Solaris system. Just follow the simple instructions on the screen to easily share your screen. Pods need to be reserved, which you can do here.

Small groups can also use the tables on the main floor of the library for spontaneous quiet study.

If you have a larger group, check out the Creative Space! We have large monitors you can hook up to your computer, whiteboards all around, and tables you can move around to fit your needs. We also have specialized equipment, like a 3D scanner and printer, virtual reality stations, and more (you can see the whole list here.) The space is open for all students on a first come first serve basis, and may sometimes be closed for workshops.

Solo Study

If you study by yourself we’ve got space for you! You can of course always use the areas listed above, but if you want more options, here are a few:

If you need some technology you can use one of our many desktop computers.

We know that studying can be a long and stressful process, so we have some comfy spaces for you to sit with armchairs upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs you can find armchairs next to our virtual aquarium or fireplace. While you’re welcome to talk freely on the main floor, the downstairs level of the library is silent study space.

If normal chairs aren’t your thing, we also have bean bag and gaming chairs that can be found around the shelves downstairs.

You can also find individual desks (sometimes called carrels) upstairs and downstairs. They include lights to help you see your notes and outlets to plug in your equipment. 

We’re always looking for ways to improve how we the space works for our students. If you have ideas of what you would like to see let us know!

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

Fireworks and Intellectual Property

It’s almost time for 4th of July! Time for hot dogs, sprinklers, and of course, fireworks. 

Where to see 4th of July firework displays in the Iowa City area

The first fireworks were invented in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279) where firework makers were respected for their skill in creating beautiful displays. The fireworks you will see this weekend are much the same s they were during the Song dynasty, consisting of a fuse, an explosive material, and inclusions to create special effects. Fireworks are actually a great way to talk about intellectual property! 

Now wait right there I know you were about to click away but I promise this is interesting.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is any creative work, from a new chemical process to the lyrics to a song. If you are the creator of a piece of intellectual property it may be in your best interest to register it with the appropriate government agency (please consult a lawyer for more information on how to do this, the Lichtenberger Engineering Library is not a legal entity nor is anyone on staff a lawyer). 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a government agency tasked with maintaining intellectual property rights. They manage three main areas of intellectual property rights: trademarks, patents, and copyrights. 


A trademark is a “word, phrase, design, or combination that identifies your goods or services.” This can include a company’s logo, name, slogan, and even specific colors (check out the Trademarks page of our Patents libguide for more examples). A trademark keeps others from using your name, phrase, or other protected identifier in unapproved ways. Fireworks can even have trademarks! The companies that create them, like Black Cat (seen below), have their names trademarked.

Black Cat Firecrackers Digital Art by Michael Fleischmann | Pixels

You can find other trademarks for fireworks. If you’re going to a regular fireworks show you probably won’t see any trademarks, but if you attend a very special one, like those presented at Disney parks, you may see one with a fancy name like FANTASMIC!, which is a registered trademark. (By the way, I’m going to use Disney as an example in a lot of this because they do so much with fireworks and intellectual property).

MidwestInfoGuide: Fantasmic - Disney's Hollywood Studios


As engineers you’re probably most familiar with the patent area of intellectual property. Because of this, I won’t bore you with the details, but you can patent a new combination of chemicals to go in a firework to create a unique effect, an improvement on fireworks racks that reduces the number of injuries to pyrotechnicians, or a “precision fireworks display system having a decreased environmental impact” like Disney. Having a patent keeps anyone but the holder from copying, using, or selling the product of the patent without the patent holder’s consent. 


A copyright protects an “artistic, literary, or intellectually created work.” I know what you’re thinking, “how does this relate to fireworks?” For that things can be a little bit tricky, and for an example we will go back to Disney fireworks. A copyrightable work must be in some kind of tangible medium. This is much easier to define when it comes to a book manuscript or a painting, but when something is as tangible and fleeting as a fireworks show the U.S. Copyright Office will take it on a case by case basis. Disney presents the same fireworks shows every night, meaning that there must be some master document that keeps track of when each rocket goes off. It could be effectively argued that this document could be filed for copyright, but again, we are not a legal entity and I am not a lawyer, so please contact your own lawyer if you’re planning to attempt to recreate FANTASMIC! on your own.

Please have a safe and happy 4th of July, and remember that we will be closed on Monday, July 4th, as it is a University holiday. Our normal Summer hours will resume on Tuesday. 

Graduate Profile: Alex Asare

Alex Asare

In the spotlight this week is our other graduate: Alex Asare.

Alex is graduating with a degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics. His future plans include a position as a software engineer, but will settle for world domination if the opportunity presents itself. 

A fun fact about Alex is that he made money off of Dogecoin. His advice to incoming students is “It’s okay to change your mind and your major. Just keep trying!”

Congratulations and good luck in the future, Alex!

Rube Goldberg – man and machine

Rube Goldberg with a contraption

Rube Goldberg was born Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg in 1883 in San Francisco. He started drawing through tracing illustrations at four years old. Encouraged by his father, Goldberg attended U.C. Berkeley, graduating in 1904 with a degree in Engineering. His first job was with the City of San Francisco, creating maps of sewers and water lines. He stayed in this position for six months, when he started at the San Francisco Chronicle where he started his career as a cartoonist. In 1907 he moved to New York City where he joined the New York Evening Mail as a sports cartoonist. One year later, Goldberg published his first commercial success: a comic strip called “Foolish Questions.” A few years later, the newspaper was syndicated, giving his comics a larger readership and making him the most popular cartoonist in the United States. He would go on to create several other comic strips, including “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike),” “Telephonies,” and his most famous comic “The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, A.K.,” which ran from 1929-1931. While Goldberg started creating inventions in his cartoons in 1912, it was in the “Professor” comics where they were most prominent. We encourage you to explore the gallery on the official Rube Goldberg website! Goldberg would continue working until his retirement in 1963. Over his lifetime it is estimated that he drew over 50,000 comics.

But what is a Rube Goldberg machine? According to the official Rube Goldberg website, Goldberg is “the only person ever to be listed in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an adjective.” That definition is “accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply. . . also: characterized by such complex needs.” Goldberg developed his flair for dramatic and outlandish machines after observing his engineering colleagues and noting that a project or task was often made more difficult than necessary. Wallace of the Wallace and Gromit franchise often creates his own complicated Goldberg-esque machines, although in the United Kingdom they are known as “Heath Robinson” machines.

In 1949, two fraternities at Purdue University held the first Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. In 1989, the competition went national, and in 1996, a high school division was added. In the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, each machine must complete the prescribed task in between 20 and 75 steps. Today’s national contests are held by Rube Goldberg Inc., which is currently run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George. 

We are holding our own Rube Goldberg Competition this weekend here at the College of Engineering. If you want to see the machines in action, stop by to see the judging of the machines on Sunday, April 24th from 1-2 pm.