Xavier Magazine

Segway This

Always wanting to stay on the forefront of technology, the physics department purchased a Segway Human Transporter, a two-wheeled vehicle that won’t tip over. Equipped with nickel metal hydride batteries, gyroscopes, a silicon sensor and several computer chips, the motor makes 1,000 adjustments per second to keep it upright. To go forward, the rider simply leans forward. It runs up to 12.5 mph. It turns with a twist of the handlebar and stops when the driver leans back.

Department of physics chairman Terry Toepker wanted to wow a gathering of physics teachers at the University this fall with a demonstration of the new two-wheeler, so he had Dennis Tierney, the department’s longtime laboratory technician, train on the intricacies of its design and operation. Ever since, he’s been tooling around campus answering questions from curious students, faculty and the like.

“People haven’t seen it, but they’ve seen it on ‘60 Minutes,’ ” Tierney says.

Riding it is like snow skiing or riding a motorcycle, he says. So far, Tierney has trained three professors who’re hoping students will be inspired to think outside the box and, maybe, invent something of their own.

The $4,500 Segway was purchased thanks to an anonymous donation from a physics graduate.

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