BY JENNY DEVRIES
After receiving numerous reports of the boards overheating and catching fire. As of Jan. 15, Drake temporarily banned the use, possession, and storage of hoverboards, applying to campus and real estate owned by the university until the safety standards are improved.
Due to these reports, Chief Administration Officer, Vanessa Macro decided to initiate the ban.
“We wondered if we should make a policy instead, but we decided to temporarily ban the hoverboards until further information can be gleaned, just because we started getting all these reports at the same time,” Macro said.
The hoverboard phenomenon took off across the country, especially on college campuses. Some entrepreneurs, such as student Kale Abrahamson, took advantage of the market quickly, buying directly from a safety certified factory in China and selling the devices to students .
“I got enough looks riding mine to figure out that I should start marketing this,” Abrahamson said.
Abrahamson’s sales quickly took off, as did other businesses’, which, according to Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship, Thomas Swartwood, was to be expected.
“They were the next gadget with a great name, a cool factor, and a price range that made it a status symbol.” Swartwood said. “It’s a hard business to sell a product, but if you catch the wave just right, and if you can buy it cheap, then you can make some money.”
But a quick rise to popularity came with harmful side effects, and an obvious increase in news coverage, which didn’t surprise Swartwood.
“Of course people are going to get hurt, there’s no news there,” Swartwood said. “But that they were catching on fire when nobody was watching, that’s what surprised people.”
News reports described hoverboards catching fire, or in some cases exploding, causing anything from broken bones to house fires, affecting people around the world.
A majority of the causes for the problems with hoverboards begin with cheap batteries or chargers that caused shortciruits, a risk unannounced to customers. But the source of the problems stem from the market in which hoverboards began.
“When someone owns the technology, they have to commit to quality control,” Swartwood said. “But in this case, you had a bunch of small manufacturers disconnected from the brand, from the consumer.”
The fires surprised many, but Abrahamson wasn’t one of them; none of his boards were affected.
“The ones that did catch on fire were either from Amazon or were really cheap, too good to be true,” Abrahamson said. “We didn’t know they came with a risk of setting on fire, but it did help business since people didn’t trust Amazon and we had certification to prove they were safe.”
Though the coverage of the boards has helped businesses like Abrahamson’s, these companies have to protect themselves from liability. Similarly, Drake must protect itself, leading to the ban on campus.
“I have a lot of friends at other schools where hoverboards had been banned a couple weeks ago,” Bengtson said. “So I wondered why Drake didn’t ban them sooner.”
Macro believes that following by example benefits Drake in the long run.
“We don’t want to be on the front end of these changes because we want to see how other institutions handle the problem, and then we follow suit.”
The problem with the ban for entrepreneurs is the hoverboard’s biggest market: the college campus. Banning their product is slowing down business.
“Not only is the hype factor decreasing, but now that they’re banned, no students want to buy them,” Abrahamson said.
For now, Macro says the administration will wait to see what happens with the product.
“If the deficiencies can be corrected, we wait and see what information the consumer protection agency discovers relative to the board’s safe usage, storage, transport etc,” Macro said.
For Abrahamson, he has hopes that the administration will allow his safety certified boards back on campus.
“I’d like the ban lifted but if it doesn’t happen, we’ll market to people outside college campuses like high school students or people in the surrounding community.” Abrahamson said.
Swartwood argues that hoverboards needs help them out of their negative public perception.
“It’s a great way to get around college campuses, so who’s going to be the champion of hoverboards?” Swartwood said. “Sometimes it takes someone like Nikola Tesla. His coils caught on fire, the lithium batteries catch on fire, but they’re not going away anytime soon.”
If students do choose to bring their boards to campus, they will be confiscated and Public Safety, will place the board will in a fireproof vault until the student is able to take it home.
If students have any questions or any new information about hoverboards, contact the Office of Finance and Administration.