Engineering the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball

The first Times Square New Year's Eve ball is photographed as it appears in 1907. (Courtesy/Time Magazine)
New York City Mayor Ed Koch gives the thumbs up sign as he flips a switch to test the Big Apple Ball, Thursday, Dec. 24, 1981 in New York. (AP Photo/Lederhandler)

Every December 31, millions of people around the world gather to observe the passing of the year and to celebrate the beginning of the next. Amid the various festivities across the globe, one of the most iconic displays is the Times Square Ball drop in New York City.

This particular celebration culminates with a countdown and a ceremonious lowering of a lighted sphere, elegantly descending from its suspended position above large crowds gathered below. Although it sounds rather simple, the tradition of dropping the ball has gone through great changes over the years.

The first New Year’s Eve ball was created in 1907. It was made of iron and wood, contained 100 25W light bulbs, and weighed 700 pounds. That first ball drop was organized by Alfred Ochs, then-owner of the New York Times, and it took place on the roof of the newspaper’s headquarters at One Times Square.

Over the years, the design was refined. The second ball, which was introduced in 1920, was constructed of iron and weighed only 400 pounds. The third iteration, constructed in 1955, was made of aluminum and weighed 150 pounds.

In 1981, the ball took the form of an apple, complete with a stem – perfect symbolism for the city otherwise known as the Big Apple.

Throughout the years, the ball has continued its evolution. By 2008, the ball featured energy-efficient bulbs.

Today, the ball is covered in 32,256 LED lights and 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels, capable of displaying more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns. It measures at over 12 feet in diameter, weighs 12,000 pounds, and is lowered by a mechanical winch.

If you are planning to spend New Year’s Eve night at home, why not turn on your TV and watch the ball drop from the comfort of your couch? You’ll probably be one of the few people who know a little of the history behind the tradition and the evolution of the ball over the years.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, stay safe.

Happy New Year!

Tips for Managing Engineering Work Stress

The engineering field is increasingly touted as one of the best STEM career fields for college students to pursue. It pays well, there are many specialties within the field that students can opt to study, and there is an almost never-ending supply of job opportunities.

While engineering is a stable, well-paying field, both the abundance and importance of the work can sometimes make it stressful. Some helpful tips for managing job stress can go a long way in preventing you from becoming overwhelmed or burned out while on the job.

Engineers constantly contend with looming deadlines, which can cause unexpected stress. Before you start a project, break it up into smaller, manageable tasks and make a schedule for yourself that contains a timeline for accomplishing each task.

Consider delegating certain tasks or asking others for assistance in accomplishing the work. Teamwork is an important component for any project, and being afraid or ashamed to ask for help can actually derail your career and personal growth.

Find coping tools that help alleviate stress. Whether it’s exercising or pursuing a hobby before or after your shift; listening to music while you work; or taking a five-minute break during the day to stretch your legs, take a few deep breaths, and just clear your mind – figure out what helps you and find ways to incorporate those strategies into your routine.

Don’t feel that you have to suffer in silence. This doesn’t mean you should sow seeds of discontent by complaining to anyone who will listen, but if you feel the project deadline is unrealistic for your workload, have a candid conversation with your supervisor. They likely have the experience, knowledge, and insight that can maximize your productivity and may be able to approve overtime to help you meet the deadline. Additionally, your supervisor may delegate some of the work to others on your team to help lift the weight from your shoulders.

Even if the deadline is set in stone, articulating that you are invested in doing your level best to meet the deadline will go a long way toward demonstrating your maturity, conscientiousness, and commitment to the company.

Finally, think positively. Allowing yourself to become mentally bogged down in a vortex of worry, anger, and confusion can actually slow your productivity. If you spend too much time focusing on the idea that you can’t accomplish the task, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, rise to the occasion. Make a plan and get to work. Find solutions, not problems. Instead of focusing on the negative, find ways to adapt and solve problems. Don’t allow negativity, whether from others or in your own mind, to sabotage you. Focus your mind and energy on being a problem-solver. This will get you further and can help you stand out as an innovator and someone who takes initiative.

At the end of the day, we each have a lot more control over the success of every project than we think, but it all starts with our mindset.

What Goes Into a Land Surveyor’s Backpack?

Land surveying is one of the oldest professions in the world, dating back to ancient times. Surveying illuminates the features of a property, outlines property boundaries, locates underground utility lines, and so much more. So what type of equipment do surveyors usually take out into the field? We decided to ask our survey crew and here is what they had to say:

“We’ll start with our basic personal equipment. Unfortunately, as surveyors, we are constantly in the field so our survey attire isn’t always office-appropriate. Whether it’s a ragged shirt with torn jeans, or a t-shirt with holes, our field attire is not really ideal to wear in a professional office environment. The same could be said for wearing nice clothing while performing fieldwork. No one wants to survey in khakis and a button-down shirt. That’s why we always keep a spare change of work clothes, just in case we need to perform fieldwork in an emergency. This means we can dress respectably in the office and still have the option to change into field clothes.

As far as personal gear, safety is always a priority. We keep our orange vests in our packs as well as our hard hats and boots. Using proper footwear while surveying in the field is essential. There’s a lot of standing and walking, so a good pair of boots goes a long way. Additionally, we may have our own tool belts as well as safety glasses. Again, safety is always a top priority so you’ll always find these either in our backpacks or survey truck.

Shorts are not a recommended item of clothing because half the time we’re walking through tall brush and need to be cognizant of ticks. You’ll also find bug spray, sunblock, and sanitary hand wipes. Some other items you may find are a magnetic compass, a small mini-reflector prism, and a 25-foot steel tape.

As far as the typical surveying equipment, these are our surveying instruments:

  • The Nikon Nivo 2C; and
  • The Leica TCRA 1103 Plus robotic instrument.

These instruments are used by field crews on a daily basis for collecting data. However, the instruments are always brought inside at day’s end and are never left in the survey truck. Tripods, prism poles, and various other tools can be found in the bed of the survey truck."

All of these items are used in different ways but are essential to performing the duties of a land surveyor.

Hate Shoveling? Snow Problem!

Windshield snow cover
Snow Bully


Garant sleigh shovel


With winter on the horizon, it’s time to prepare for everyone’s favorite holiday activity: shoveling snow. Rather than soldiering on through blizzards with a shovel and a bad back, why not make the job easier with a few easy tips?

Before the snow falls, take preemptive action. Clear your yard of anything that you don’t want to get destroyed by snow (or even snow removal), such as hoses, decorations, or dog tie-outs. Stake out garden beds or any portions of your yard that contain elements that cannot be brought inside or stored in a shed. This will prevent accidental snow buildup when it comes time to shovel and dump snow. A little home surveying goes a long way!

If you know snow is imminent and want to lessen how much clearing you’ll have to do, consider buying a few waterproof tarps. These can be placed over sidewalks, walkways, and even cars to help protect their surfaces and decrease post-snowfall clearing. Remember to weigh the tarps down with stones or bricks, or to tie them down if they're being used to cover your car. After the snow has fallen, remove the tarp to reveal a clean walkway or car underneath. It may require a little shoveling to lighten the tarp’s load, but it will provide a protective barrier nonetheless.

If your shovel tosses are getting lighter because snow keeps sticking, consider using a lubricant. WD-40, petroleum jelly, or even some cooking spray can help prevent snow from sticking to your shovel, allowing for more successful scoops. Family Handyman recommends wiping down your tools before storing them to prevent rust buildup and to increase each tool’s longevity.

Rather than using a standard, straight-handled shovel or a snow-blower reliant on gas, consider upgrading to something more ergonomically- and ecologically-friendly. There are a variety to choose from, such as Garant’s sleigh shovels designed to scoop and push while lessening the strain on your back, or even the Snow Bully, which uses a set of wheels to act as a small snow plow. If you’re not ready to let go of the snow shovel that has been passed down through your family for generations, consider getting an attachment for it that will still help lessen the strain on your back, such as an eziMate, which creates an additional point of leverage with a detachable handle.

If you've pinched a nerve and it’s flurrying outside, break out the leaf blower to take care of some light dustings. Additionally, a wet/dry vacuum such as a Shop-Vac can be turned into a makeshift snowblower by attaching the hose to the exhaust, pointing, and blowing the snow away.

While enjoying a well-deserved rest inside, be sure to keep an eye on the snowfall. Although it may seem irritating to continuously trudge outdoors to shovel, it’s easier to move light, fluffy snow every few hours than having to somehow lift packed blocks of ice out of your driveway.