Well, every year the engineers at UBC pull some sort of magical engineering feat and suspend or put a vehicle or some other object in an odd place. When one goes looking it’s hard to get an accurate list of what was done and where. Even the engineers’ own site lists little. This is probably because the admission of specific pranks could garner infamy and charges.
Over the years they have done a variety of pranks, the most enduring being suspending or placing a VW Bug somewhere off a bridge or the first time, on top of the Ladner clock tower on UBC grounds. Other Beetles have been suspended off the Lions Gate bridge and the Golden Gate bridge, bringing some international notoriety to the merry band of pranksters. The ‘geers feel a strong need to prove their engineering prowess but they received a failing mark for last week’s prank on the Ironworkers’ Memorial bridge in which they may have damaged the cables to the bridge and the car plunged into the drink.
The five culprits were arrested and released (a local catch and release program for engineers), could face charges of mischief over $5000 as well as discipline through the university. The other third of all these pranks is that usually they ask for a donation of $100-$1000 to a hospital or other cause, which, from what I can find, has never been paid by mayors or members of parliament. So, good harmless fun right? The other third is that often the “ornaments” are left blocking traffic or the removal of such blocks traffic and costs Vancouver a good chunk of money.
There have been other pranks. Supposedly they once put a giant engineer’s jacket on the Inukshuk near Stanley Park and it was filled with clothing for the homeless, or they made a giant sculpture of tin cans (with food in them) that then went to the food bank. I can’t find record of these two but after this botched attempt and perhaps a hefty bill to pay back to the city, engineers will try more socially responsible pranks.
There are others that may not disrupt traffic but cause anger or consternation, such as the theft of the Speakers’ chair from the legislature. If nothing else, these pranks do point out security issues. There is a wiki entry of some of the pranks, obviously written by engineers, replete with misspellings and purple narratives.
I remember one year when Sophie’s cafe on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano found the giant fork and knife that adorned the entry to their restaurant gone. It was accredited to the geers and the five-foot utensils were returned. Overall it wasn’t a technically hard mission. Someone loosened the bolts when inside the restaurant and then they just came back later and pulled them off of the outside wall. They’ve stolen the Rose Bow trophy from Washington U and the nine o’clock gun in Stanley Park. Always these items have been “found” by engineers and returned.
A rites of passage for upcoming graduates, the geers try to show their wit, creativity and prowess with such stunts. It would be nice if they now start putting a bit more thought into their antics and see if they can benefit some cause more than just asking for a ransom. After all, perhaps these pranks show the shortcomings of many engineered roadways and systems that often have great flaws in them. I think of our Alex Fraser bridge (yet to have a VW Beetle suspended from it) where three arteries lead to the main bridge and merge all at the same point, causing long traffic jams and slow moving traffic. Another piece of engineering brilliance. So I challenge the engineers to try and take their stunts to a new level and add some meat to the bones.