Stanford Report Online



Stanford Report, May 8, 2002
Cardinal Chronicle / weekly campus column

BY BARBARA PALMER

A MAGNIFICENT OLD CENTENARIAN HAS EXPIRED ON campus -- the 100-foot-tall, Eucalyptus viminalis that stood south of Varian Laboratory was removed over two weekends in April. The tree was one of the last markers of a 19th-century avenue that once carried horseback travelers from the Red Barn to the community of Mayfield, now California Avenue, said RON BRACEWELL, professor emeritus of electrical engineering. "I've loved that tree for a long time and I'm really dismayed. It's tough to lose it." Although the tree was infested with red gum lerp psyllids, insects that have plagued campus red gum eucalyptus trees, the cause of death was actually a fungus, said BOB MURPHY, a grounds superintendent. "It was a really nice tree, just gorgeous." The tree did not go gentle into the good night: It took three days, a big crew and "our biggest boom truck" to remove it, Murphy said.

WITH CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED ON THE MECHANICAL Engineering Research Laboratory on Santa Teresa Street, the funkiest shortcut on campus -- through the courtyard behind Building 610 -- once again offers a peek into the fertile minds at work in the Design Loft. Part playground, part junkyard, the courtyard is strewn with the raw material of creativity (old surfboards, scrap metal, seatless chair frames) and designs-in-progress by students like SAM PALMER, who's pursuing a master's degree in product design. Palmer takes the ideas we had as kids -- "What if I could make this swing go all the way around?" and "What if I could fly?" -- and nudges them along into reality. His "360-degree swing" uses rigid bars that hang in a metal quadrangle frame and support a (helmeted) user in a webbed seat that was once a sling on a crane. (It can take tons of pressure, Palmer said.) The swing is as much fun as he imagined, "and a pretty smooth ride," he said. His latest project in development is "Skip," his working title for a tricycle-cum-hang glider, which users will pedal until they achieve lift-off. The winged vehicle, built from a bicycle and a hang glider sail, isn't designed to fly very high, just high enough so "you're actually flying under your own power," Palmer said. It's for people who want the sensation of human-powered flight, but are not necessarily willing to take the risk of running off the side of a mountain in a hang glider, he said. "My work is really about personal empowerment."

BIKE-TO-WORK DAY IS THURSDAY, MAY 16 AND THE Stanford Cycling Club and the Campus Bike Shop are offering campus cyclists two opportunities for a free tune-up beforehand. Get a bicycle safety check, a mini tune-up, air and a lube, all gratis, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and next Wednesday, May 15, in White Plaza.

Write to Barbara Palmer at barbara.palmer@stanford.edu or mail code 2245 or call her at 724-6184.

Barbara Palmer

Students tried out a new invention -- the 360-degree swing -- in the courtyard behind Building 610. The contraption was conceived by student Sam Palmer, who's pursuing a master's degree in product design. Photo courtesy: Sam Palmer