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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Rituals: Sculpting through the Snow

Thayer students traditionally take their skills outside during winter and shoulder most of the design and construction of the Winter Carnival snow sculpture. “It’s a typical engineer thing to do,” says M.E.M. student Jon Kling.

This year’s celebration, “The Stupendous Games: Mischief in the Snow,” included a complicated design and a scramble for enough snow to get the job done. The sculpture was a 24-foot-high capital D embellished with cartoon characters Calvin and Hobbes bobsledding down the sloping curve. A 35-foot Olympic torch rose from one corner of the D. The torch was a nod to Dartmouth Olympians past and present and an acknowledgment of the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. A walkway lined with shelves was cut through the sculpture and stocked with memorabilia from Dartmouth Olympians. During Winter Carnival’s February 9 opening ceremonies, flash burn paraffin wax was boiled to ignite gasses that shot flames up from the torch.

Snow sculpture
Photograph by Jennifer Seaton.

The biggest problem in snow-sculpture construction is the race to amass enough snow. In January students erected a base of plywood sheets, then started filling the base with snow one shovelful at a time. They hosed the snow down to freeze it into solid ice overnight. The next day they moved the plywood to the top of the ice block and repeated the process. After the icy mound was too high to reach, they used a pulley system to haul up trashcans of snow. Two weeks and 270 cubic yards of snow later, the fun began. Students, about half from Thayer, used chainsaws and ice tools to refine the sculpture.

About a week before opening ceremonies, rain and temperatures in the low 40s left the Green showing more grass than snow. Snow had to be imported from Dartmouth’s Sculley-Fahey Field, and ice shavings arrived from Campion Ice Rink in Lebanon.

“We’re really lucky it worked out,” Kling says. “We had 30 people helping through the night the day before it was finished — standard engineer fare.”

According to Kling, the engineers on the job didn’t mind the endless shoveling and pressure to finish. It’s like any engineering project, he says. “We do it so we can walk around the final product and give each other high fives and say ‘Sweet.’ ”

Categories: The Great Hall, Rituals

Tags: design, projects, students

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