The library summer reading programs this year used the theme "Build a Better World." Chris volunteered to build an interactive crane for the opening celebration, detailed below.

First, a suitable model was chosen. Chris had already been doing some Team Givan related research into transportation museums and wondering about their cross-gender appeal—what could enhance, how various artifacts affected it, what role aesthetics could play in breaking the masculine stereotype of "big" equipment, etc. So, it was decided to model the crane after the graceful Fairbairn steam crane.

Fairbairn crane in Seville. By  Jose Manuel Lara Perona .

Fairbairn crane in Seville. By Jose Manuel Lara Perona.

Fairbairn crane in Helsingor, Denmark. By  Håkan Dahlström

Fairbairn crane in Helsingor, Denmark. By Håkan Dahlström

The crane would be made out of cardboard because it's easy to work with and cheap to acquire. In fact, the library had recently installed new cabinets in the break room, so there were extremely large boxes available for raw materials. To increase the interactivity, the crane was to include both a hoist and a pneumatic swinging action—although the latter actually went back and forth between a swinging action or an articulated claw, the swinging action became necessary based on how it could be built.

The crane was to be placed on the second floor of the library, to pick up targets on the first floor. There is a railing with a metal grating that runs around the second floor, so the crane was designed to run bolts through the existing grating. This gave it a solid placement without having to build a heavy base to preclude the crane tipping over under load. To increase durability, all of the working portions of the crane were suspended on the far side of the railing, and visitors only interacted with a "control panel" on the near side, made of several layers of cardboard bonded together. The edges of most pieces was also taped off. On working portions this was partially aesthetic, replicating the weld lines of the metal plates. On interactive portions this was to prevent fraying or separating of the cardboard during use.

Since the shape of the crane was relatively complex, Sketchup was used for basic design work. Most portions were joined with brads, to replicate the riveted look of the originals. Critical portions were glued first, then joined with brads as well.

Given how the project had started with attention to its aesthetics, choosing a color for the crane was difficult. Actual examples are painted silver, orange, and blue. Some are simply bare or sealed metal, it seems. Eventually the decision was made by coincidence. While shopping for spray paint, a can of "Allis Chalmers Orange" was found which seemed exceedingly appropriate.

The crane was successfully installed, but its hydraulic system never proved satisfactory. The tubing available, cheaply, didn't seal well enough. The weakest part, from an interactive perspective, was the ability of the crane's line to miss the reel and instead twist around the axle, a problem which manifested both in practice and in use. The intended durability features worked as expected, it was simply the working mechanisms that suffered from design issues. Ultimately the crane did succeed in one area—it looked inviting and fun when installed.