Lehigh University logo
Lehigh University logo
Lehigh University logo

Reinventing tradition: New beds built for bed races

Spirit Week is in full swing leading up to Saturday’s 150th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette College at Yankee Stadium. On Wednesday, 25 teams took part in the annual "Bed Races," but there was something new this year.

Engineers at the Baker Institute and Wilbur Powerhouse built beds specifically for the race this year to be safer than the ones used in the past.

Shannon Varcoe ’15, president of the Association of Student Alumni (ASA) who put on the event, recalled last year’s beds: “The potential for injury was really high last year so we didn’t want that to be the same this year,” said Varcoe. Last year many of the beds that were typically used started falling apart. Halfway through the races, the event had to be called off because of wheels falling off.”

After the races last year, ASA asked Brian Slocum, director of Wilbur Powerhouse, if he would redesign the beds.

“For all sorts of reasons the beds were really unsafe,” he said. “They were too tall, the castors weren’t designed for what they were doing, it was hard to steer them, people would get stuck in between the beds, [and] there was a high center of gravity so they were likely to fall over.”

Slocum and Michael Moore, manager of the design labs, got together a team of individuals from Wilbur to make the steel-framed, welded beds that they had designed. The four beds were each numbered, so that when parked next to each other, they read 1865, in celebration of the upcoming sesquicentennial.

“They are built to be a lot more robust,” Moore said. “It’s a full steel frame and basically brings elements from a go cart into it to make it faster and safer while still maintaining the look of a bed.”

Protocol has also changed to make the races safer. Since the newly redesigned beds come with steering wheels, there will no longer be two team members stationed at the front of the bed to steer it. Now, two members will sit in the bed, one steering, while the three others push from behind. Members riding the bed will be required to wear helmets as the beds race down Memorial drive between Linderman and Packard.

“We are taking more safety precautions so the tradition can last effectively without people getting hurt, because one bad injury and it’s over,” Varcoe said.

Bed Races originated as a Greek Week event and showcased Lehigh engineers’ abilities to construct beds, which teams would then decorate and ride down South Mountain.

“This tradition stopped for a few years and then was revived back in 2007 by the Association of Student Alumni and class officers to bring back the tradition in new ways as a part of Lehigh-Laf,” explained Varcoe.

This year, hundreds of students turned out to watch the team 2 Hype take the race. Members of the Lehigh Fund sold Rivalry 150 scarves at the event, as well as participating in the race. The Füd Truk also made an appearance, giving away free hot dogs and French fries to participants and spectators.

You can view photos and video from the event on Lehigh University's Tumblr and YouTube pages as well at the Lehigh First-Year Engineers blog.

-Aislinn Strohecker '18 is a writer with the Dean’s Office of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Related Links