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>  News Releases >   2007 >   February

Engineering + Studio Art = Giant Sculptures

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 02/22/07 • Sue Knapp • (603) 646-3661

Dartmouth student works hard on annual monument of snow
Winter Carnival
Schneider (left) and Victoria Solbert '07 working on the 2007 Winter Carnival snow sculpture.
Winter Carnival
The 2006 Winter Carnival snow sculpture.
Winter Carnival
The 2005 Winter Carnival snow sculpture.
Winter Carnival
The 2004 Winter Carnival snow sculpture. (Photos by Joseph Mehling '69)

Daniel Schneider '07 jokes that he is majoring in snow sculpture. Actually, his major is engineering modified with studio art, but since he arrived on campus in 2003, many elements of his course of study have involved building Dartmouth's annual giant snow sculpture for Winter Carnival.

"I've always loved to build things," says Schneider, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y. "I started with LEGOs and sand castles; I've built sets for theater productions; I've worked with Habitat for Humanity in New York City; I've done some carpentry on a farm in New Zealand; I've designed and built an outdoor stage at the Upper Valley Events Center in Norwich (Vt.). I love to build."

Schneider also likes to find ways to make the building process more streamlined and energy efficient. For example, as part of his senior honors thesis, he converted a 36-foot hay elevator, originally designed to lift heavy bales of hay to a loft, into a five-gallon bucket snow conveyor. This, he says, made it so much easier to move snow to the top of the giant sculpture, which was an enormous skiing bunny this year for the 2007 Winter Carnival (the theme was "Dartmouth Down the Rabbit Hole" in honor of Alice in Wonderland).

"We used to lift the snow in 55-gallon drums. It was slow, back-breaking work," he says.

After working on many snow sculptures throughout his college career, Schneider knew that the old system needed updating. He also recognized that expectations across campus were huge - everyone expects a spectacle that represents Dartmouth's traditional salute to winter. He was eager to take on the challenge of mechanizing the strenuous part: raising the snow more than 20 feet in the air. And, he needed a way to help the building process go quickly and accommodate the numbers of volunteers who wanted to help, whether few or many.

The hay elevator conversion was inspired by the old bucket brigade routine. The sculpture team began using a bucket ramp in 2003, before Schneider became involved, and he took this concept to the next level (pun intended). His advisors recommended rethinking the idea and changing the system. With funds from his honors thesis and from the Winter Carnival Council, he purchased an old hay elevator from a farmer in Rutland, Vt. The initial alterations took about four weeks, and the new snow conveyor debuted in January, just in time to build the sculpture.

"Dan is a very energetic individual, even by Dartmouth standards," says his advisor Francis E. Kennedy, professor of engineering. "Although I am in Thailand this term, I kept up with Dan's efforts by e-mail, and I was delighted one day in early February when I checked the Baker Library webcam and saw the snow elevator in place on the Green and working. It was a great effort, and I hope the entire campus was able to enjoy the snow sculpture that was the fruit of his many labors."

Schneider's snow sculpture input has been seen in the Cat in the Hat in 2004, in the pirate ship in 2005, and in a salute to the Winter Olympics in 2006, in addition to the giant rabbit in 2007. He has also left a legacy for future generations of Dartmouth Winter Carnival snow sculpture builders: a manual, which he wrote during his sophomore year for a studio art independent study, and a detailed set of instructions about how exactly the remodeled hay elevator works, what might break, and how to fix it. He will continue to add to and improve these handbooks before he graduates this spring.

The old way: in 2004, students used a series of ramps to haul snow to build the sculpture for Winter Carnival. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

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