After a slew of “hoverboard” fires across the country, Bates College has joined Amazon, the United Kingdom, New York State, all major Airlines, and other colleges and universities in a ban that, according to a report by the BBC, continues to grow daily. The fires seem to be caused by inexpensive lithium-ion batteries that are found in the devices, but the results continue to be investigated by government officials. These same batteries are commonly used in cell phones, laptops, cameras and other small electronic devices. Due to issues with overheating that lead to fire, Dell, Lenovo, Apple and HP have all recalled products containing these batteries, according to Consumer Affairs. Hoverboards are particularly susceptible to fire because, as YouTube will attest, most people are terrible at using them. According to the Consumer Protection Commission, the battery becomes damaged when a user loses control, or falls off, and the hoverboard hits a wall. After repeated issues, the battery has a tendency to short circuit while charging, or recently after. As a result, it catches fire.
In response, Bates Security has chosen to continue its policy of limiting risks of fire at the College and banned hoverboards on January 8, 2016. An ongoing investigation by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission is looking into the fire risk. Additionally, there have been reports of serious injuries including concussions, fractures, contusions and internal injuries due to hoverboard use (or lack of).
Thomas Carey ’72 and Director of Security and Campus Safety, stated that, due to concerns of fire safety, all similar devices fall under the ban. This includes students who correctly claim that their “hoverboard” is actually a hands free Segway. According to Carey, “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck — it’s a duck!” He also suggests that hoverboard owners walk and wait until spring to find another mode of transportation.
One hoverboarder, Kento Kaijima ’19, opposes the ban. “The ban is unreasonable because mine never caught on fire.” Kaijima, who has apparently mastered the art of standing up on a moving object unlike most “hoverboarders,” says that he finds it much easier to get around on a hoverboard as opposed to walking. However, Kaijima has decided to comply with the ban and walk.
Besides a few hoverboarders, student response to the ban has been virtually nonexistent. According to scooter-rider Matt Zecca ’18, the ban is irrelevant. He said, “I literally could not care less.” Other students seem to have similar responses. Bike-rider Saleha Belguami ‘18 believes that “Security is saving hoverboarders from themselves.” She cites the general ridiculousness of the hoverboard and the many, many videos of riders falling on their faces after failed attempts at riding the boards. Seemingly, this issue has made so little of a dent on campus as to be a non-issue. Alternatively, the Bates College student body is content to walk, longboard, scooter and bike their way to class under their own leg power.
But fear not, students. When a real hoverboard is finally invented, the ban will not apply. Carey himself professed, “If they actually hovered, we’d all want one—who wants to walk?” Perhaps the students of the Class of 2030 will be allowed to ride to class in midair like McFly. Until then, bikes, scooters and longboards will have to suffice.