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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!

Did you know we have a tool library?

Ready for a new school year? For those of you new to campus, we want to take a moment to introduce some of the unique things here at the Engineering Library. Most of our tools can be checked out for a week, with some exceptions, especially cables (don’t worry, we tell you the due date when you check an something out). You can find everything here, but I’ll highlight a few things you may be happy to find. To check out the items listed here, just come up to the front desk and ask!


We have what you need to keep your day powered. We have phone and laptop chargers available for most devices. You can check out chargers for 4 hours so you can keep your phone or laptop charged while you’re finishing up your homework or studying for your next test. We have Lightning cables and USB-C chargers for your phones, as well as chargers for most MacBooks, Windows Surface, USB-C Laptop Chargers, and a Universal PC Charger with 12 different adapters to fit your device.

Need to connect this to that? We have cables to connect HDMI, USB, USB-C, VGA, Micro HDMI, among others.

Lightning Wall Charger

Hand Tools

Sometimes in life you just need a hammer. Thankfully, we have one for you to borrow! If you’re setting up your dorm or apartment and need a wrench or a screwdriver to put together a chair, come by and get one from us. We have several specialty screwdriver sets, so if something in your PC comes loose during the move you can come and borrow our Computer Toolkit to put everything back in its place. 

Screwdriver: Computer Toolkit

Measuring Tools

Engineering requires precision, and sometimes that requires measuring tools. You can borrow calipers that are accurate to .02 mm and can measure items up to 6 inches. You can measure larger items using our tape measure or laser distance measurer. We also have specialized measuring tools, like multimeters/voltmeters, and an oscilloscope. 



We have several types of cameras available for checkout. We have some that are fit for all of your adventures, like GoPros and a 360 Fly. If you need a camera to record a presentation, we have digital and DSLR cameras. You can also borrow webcams and microphones to make sure you have your best Zoom presentation.

Camera: GoPro

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

Explore the Universe at the Engineering Library!

We’ve been feeling inspired by the new images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope so we’ve put together a list of books about exploring outer space that are available for check out here at the Engineering Library.

If you’re looking to learn the very basics or brush up on your knowledge, check out Space Exploration for Dummies by Cynthia Phillips and Shana Priwer or It’s Only Rocket Science: an introduction in plain English by Lucy Rogers.

Space Exploration For Dummies: Cynthia Phillips, Priwer, Shana:  9780470445730: Books

It's ONLY Rocket Science: An Introduction in Plain English (Astronomers'  Universe): Rogers, Lucy: 9780387753775: Books

Learn about where space exploration may go by knowing where we have been with The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration: from the ancient world to the extraterrestrial future by Roger D. Launius or Historical Guide to NASA and the Space Program by Ann Beardsley, C. Tony Garcia, and Joseph Sweeney.

The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration: From the Ancient World to the  Extraterrestrial Future: Launius, Roger D.: 9781588346377: Books

Historical Guide to NASA and the Space Program: Beardsley, Ann, Garcia, C.  Tony, Sweeney, Joseph: 9781442262867: Books

Speaking of history, you can learn about the Webb telescope’s predecessor, the Hubble Telescope in The Universe in a Mirror: the saga of  the Hubble Telescope and the visionaries who built it by Robert Zimmerman, An Acre of Glass: a history and forecast of the telescope by J.B. Zirker, or Chasing Hubble’s Shadows: the search for galaxies at the edge of time by Jeff Kanipe.

An Acre of Glass: A History and Forecast of the Telescope: Zirker, J. B.:  9780801882340: Books

The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the  Visionaries Who Built It: Zimmerman, Robert: 9780691146355:  Books

Chasing Hubble's Shadows: The Search for Galaxies at the Edge of Time:  Kanipe, Jeff: 9780809034062: Books

Want to work on the next Mars Rover or other space robot project? Check out Space Invaders: how robotic spacecraft explore the solar system by Michel van Pelt or Robotic Exploration of the Solar System by Paolo Ulivi.

Space Invaders: How Robotic Spacecraft Explore the Solar System: van Pelt,  Michel: 9780387563480: Books

Robotic Exploration of the Solar System: Part I: The Golden Age 1957-1982  (Springer Praxis Books): Ulivi, Paolo, Harland, David M.: 9780387493268: Books

Hear about space exploration from the people who do it with Spacewalker: my journey in space and faith as NASA’s record-setting frequent flyer by Jerry L. Ross, Spaceman: an astronaut’s unlikely journey to unlock the secrets of the universe by Mike Massimino or Reaching for the Moon: the autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson (she was highlighted in the movie Hidden Figures). Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's  Record-Setting Frequent Flyer (Purdue Studies in Aeronautics and  Astronautics) eBook : Ross, Jerry L., Norberg, John: Kindle Store


Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine  Johnson: Johnson, Katherine: 9781534440838: Books

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla!

Electrical engineer and genius, Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, Austrian Empire (now Croatia) on July 9th or 10th, 1856, making this weekend his 166th birthday! He showed an interest in engineering from a very young age. Some inspiration probably came from his mother Duka, who was known for fashioning her own tools for use around the house. His father Milutin was a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church and had a talent for memorizing Serbian epic poetry. Nikola was a very bright child with an eidetic memory, he could also speak eight languages (Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin).  

Tesla attended the Imperial-Royal Technical College at Graz (Now Graz University of Technology) where he became obsessed with proving alternate currents merits. He was so preoccupied with these thoughts that he was unable to concentrate on his schoolwork. He dropped out due to failing grades and lost his tuition money to gambling. His father eventually found him, brought him home, and helped him prepare to continue his education at the University of Prague. Milutin unexpectedly died in April of 1879 before he could arrange everything. For the rest of that year Tesla spent his time teaching at the local school. The next year Tesla’s uncles gathered enough money for him to attend school in Prague. However, he arrived too late in the year to enroll. In addition, he did not have the prerequisite levels of Greek and Czech to be accepted. While he attended lectures at Charles-Ferdinand University, he never received grades.   

In 1981 he moved to Budapest where he worked at the Budapest Telephone Exchange. After making several improvements there, he was recommended the next year for a job at the Continental Edison Company in Paris. In 1883 Tesla built his first induction motor.  

Tesla was recommended again for a job, this time with Thomas Edison’s lab. He arrived in America in 1884 to begin this job. Tesla and Edison’s relationship quickly fell apart because of creative differences. Tesla took a job digging ditches in order to support himself before he found investors in his work.  

Inventors quickly found Tesla, interested in his induction motor and use of alternating current. A deal was brokered and he licensed his invention for a polyphase system of alternating current dynamos, transformers, and motors to be sold to George Westinghouse. This sale included a year of work for Tesla at Westinghouse’s lab in Pittsburgh. In 1891 Westinghouse was facing financial difficulties, and Tesla agreed to release the company from paying him according to their agreement, believing that a major company promoting the wonders of alternating current would further the cause.  

Over the next several years, Tesla continued to be a pioneer in widespread use of electricity. In order to assuage fears of electricity, he invited the public to his lab to see demonstrations where he let electric currents run through his body to show how safe the technology was. He moved to Colorado Springs where he established a lab and discovered terrestrial stationary waves, proving that the earth can resonate at certain electrical frequencies. Eventually he moved back East where he set up a laboratory at Wardenclyffe in New York. Here he experimented with radio waves, but eventually lost the lab due to financial difficulties. The lab at Wardenclyffe would be his last large-scale laboratory. He would spend the rest of his life working on several projects, but never again would he find widespread success.  

Tesla died on January 7th, 1943, at the age of 86. He was found in his room at the Hotel New Yorker where he had lived for several years (his rent was covered by Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company). Many conspiracy theories have claimed that Tesla had developed a working death ray or that his papers held proof of aliens. An investigation by the FBI found no proof, and that his papers were mostly theoretical in nature. The “working death ray” was found to be a multidecade resistance box. Tesla’s remains were cremated and can be found at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade. 


Biography. (2022, January 7). Nikola Tesla. 

King, G. (2013, February 4). The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and His Tower. Smithsonian Magazine. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (n.d.). Nikola Tesla | Lemelson. Lemelson-MIT. 

Newhall, M. (2013, November 18). Top 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Nikola Tesla. 

Whitaker Hunt, I. (n.d.). Nikola Tesla | Biography, Facts, & Inventions. Encyclopedia Britannica. 

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. 

Happy International Women in Engineering Day!

Let’s celebrate International Women in Engineering Day!

47% of the American workforce is made up of women, but only 14% of engineers and only 20% off engineering students are women. In fact, while the number of female engineering students has increased, 40% of female graduates leave or never find a job in the field. According to one Harvard Business Review article, women who choose a career in engineering express a desire to be work in socially conscious areas, such as environmental or biomedical engineering. When exposed to real-world engineering in their first jobs or internships, these hopeful engineers learn that “the engineering profession is not as open to being socially responsible or as dedicated to tackling pressing national and global problems as they had hoped.” The twin disappointments of opportunities to make a positive impact paired with sexism encountered in the classroom or workplace alienate these young and hopeful engineers who look for opportunities elsewhere. 

Well that was disheartening. What can we do?

In the 1980’s only 5.8% of engineers were women, illustrating that we have made great strides in closing the engineering gender gap. Here at the University of Iowa, 27.8% of engineering students (undergraduate and graduate together) are women. 

Educate Yourself

This is something everyone can do! Read articles and books, listen to podcasts, or find other resources to learn about the history of women in engineering and the current issues they are facing. We can get you started! If you are interested in the story of how women blazed their own way into engineering schools, try Girls Coming to Tech! by Amy Sue Bix. If you want to blaze your own way in the engineering world, check out Becoming Leaders: a practical handbook for women in engineering, science, and technology by F. Mary Williams and Carolyn J. Emerson. 

Join a Student Organization focused on Women in Engineering

The College of Engineering has over 30 student groups, several of which are centered around women in engineering. Many professional engineering organizations including ASME and IEEE have their own special sections for women in the field to build relationships.

Find or Become a Mentor

Building one on one relationships is another way to build community. You can create your own mentorships, or find them through groups like the Society of Women Engineers, who have a members only mentor network. A mentor can help you to evaluate your goals, navigate difficult decisions, or find your next career move. 

Find a Role Model

Many people find it beneficial to have role models to aspire to. These can be other female engineers from history whose work you want to build on, or even a celebrity whose vibe you like (no one says you can’t aspire to be the Beyonce of your lab). We even have some great female role models here at the College of Engineering! Our own Dean Harriet Nembhard is an extremely accomplished Industrial Engineer. 

Flip Flop Day!

We’ve had a very hot week, so it’s fitting that it is National Flip Flop Day! Celebrated the third Friday in June, National Flip Flop Day was created by the restaurant Tropical Smoothie Cafe as a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, a summer camp for children with life-threatening illnesses. 

Flip flops became popular in America after World War II when American soldiers brought Japanese zori back from their deployments. Zori can be traced back to the Heian Period (794-1192 CE) and are often paired with tabi socks, which allow the wearer to don both socks and sandals at the same time. Today Americans often wear their flip flops during summer activities like going to the beach, so we forego the socks. 

Traditional Japanese Zori Men's Sandals in Straw Velvet | Etsy Singapore
Traditional Japanese Zori

Flip flops are not patented, but improvements to them can be patented! How would you improve your flip flops?

Many patents are for decorative elements and the ways in which they are attached to the shoe, like this daisy or this fun fringe

Replaceable Ornament for Flip-Flop Sandal, US 2010/00116223 A1


Flip-Flop Shoe and Method of Making Same US 2006/2013080 A1

Some people seek to improve the functionality of flip flops, like adding straps or creating a convertible flipflop/slipper.

Flip-Flop Back Strap Device US 8381415 B1
Flip Flop and Slipper in One/Convertible Sandal Slipper US 2012 0079739 A1

If you want a more scientific approach to flip flops and shoes in general, come check out The Science of Footwear edited by Ravindra S. Goonetilleke to learn more about everything in the process of designing, manufacturing, and marketing footwear.


Stay cool and wear your flip flops to the beach this weekend!

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:

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!

How do I…. find a book?

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:

The view when you enter the library

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.

The stairs and elevator take you to the same place – it’s all a matter of preference.

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. 

I spy some books in the back. Let’s investigate some more.

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.

Hoorah! Books!

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.

Permanent and course reserves are indicated in a book’s digital record. Boxed in red here.