New gadget too hot for 2016?


by Ethan Zierke, Staff Reporter

One of the most popular gadgets of 2015 is instigating new policies on college campuses across the United States.

The hoverboard is a battery-powered, self-balancing, two-wheeled board that the rider controls using only his feet.

In recent months, this popular new toy has caused a stir, however, due to the potential fire hazard that they pose. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot F. Kaye released a statement in December 2015 explaining steps being taken to determine the cause of these fires.

“CPSC field investigators are actively investigating hoverboard-related fires across the country and will open new cases as they come to our attention,” Elliot said. “We have purchased boards in the marketplace and we have taken possession of boards that caught fire.”

Despite the recent news, hoverboards continue to sell. Simpson freshman Andrew Ryan received a hoverboard for Christmas. He said it only requires a smart buyer to be a safe hoverboard owner.

“As far as catching on fire goes, there’s reputable buyers, and there’s non-reputable ones,” Ryan said. “If you get one from a reputable buyer, they issue you a guarantee that it won’t catch on fire.”

Ryan’s family took an extra step and purchased a safer battery that was much less likely to overheat. At this point, the overheating lithium battery that powers the hoverboards is believed to be the most common cause of the fires.

Simpson College Director of Security Chris Frerichs has been paying close attention to hoverboard policies that have already been put into place by larger universities.

“I wouldn’t think we’d have more than a dozen or so come this spring,” Frerichs said, “but it’s something to look at and think about. The main thing is that we want to have the right individuals approving them because we could run into a liability issue there if we sign off on something and then an incident occurs.”

According to Frerichs, due to the primary concern of hoverboard safety being fire-related, any new policy regarding the use and storage of hoverboards on campus would call for a meeting between the Student Government Association and Luke Behaunek, dean of students and interim director of residence life.

Hoverboard Kirkpatrick 017(Photo: Alex Kirkpatrick, Digital Editor/The Simpsonian)

“In the last few years, any time that we’ve had a policy change that may affect students or student life we generally contact SGA, specifically the president or the advocacy committee, to discuss the changes and potential impact of changes the policy would have on student life.” Behaunek said.

He said forming a policy surrounding hoverboards would be different from this process, since it is a specific product and concerning fire safety.

“If we’re getting guidance from a Fire Marshal’s office saying that this product has been deemed to be not safe, there’s not going to be as much need for discussion about that, compared to other policy initiatives we have looked into,” he said.

While the CPSC continues its investigation into reputable and non-reputable sellers, college campuses are forced to make blanket-policies which would ban the use of all hoverboards until the issue is resolved.

“In order for us to be in a place where we’re willing to sign off on certain sellers and not others, we would need to have guidance from the fire marshal regarding those specific issues and I’m not sure that’s going to be provided, said Behaunek. “If it is, that’s going to be very useful information for us but as I have seen, there are several institutions that aren’t waiting for that.”

Simpson College awaits guidance from the fire department before beginning the policy-formation process.