It’s Engineer’s Week, an international day that seeks to increase the profile of engineering. The theme of engineer’s week 2023 is Creating The Future, which celebrates how engineers play a vital role in innovating solutions that help make the world a better place. Down here in New Orleans, it’s also Mardi Gras week, and with Carnival on the brain during engineer’s week activities, we can’t help but think about how engineering helps make Mardi Gras happen. Grab a piece of king cake and dive in with us for a lesson on how civil and structural engineering supports the magic of Mardi Gras.
We all FLOAT on, alright
When you think of carnival, you probably think of Mardi Gras floats–from the giant, double floats holding dozens of people pulled by tractors to the smaller, DIY floats pulled by bikes, floats are iconic Mardi Gras imagery and feats of engineering.
The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans in February 1857. Back in the day, floats were decorated carriages and wagons pulled by horses and mules accompanied by men who carried torches to light the way for the route. Over the years thanks to engineering, innovation, and creativity, modern floats have become major productions, likened to moving works of art, often featuring elaborate, thematic decorations that wind through the city and delight parade-goers.
Mardi Gras floats must be carefully constructed to stand up to elements like wind, heat, dancing revelers, and even rain, which can make a float up to 3 times heavier. How does this happen? A lot of engineering, actually! From constructing the base, to calculating the strength of the frame, to distributing the weight evenly, to ensuring it can make the turns on the route, floats are engineered to be both sturdy and lightweight, which is no easy feat. Some floats are even more complicated, featuring animated parts that move while the float itself moves, and these require more engineering including hydraulics, motors, and operating systems.
Next time you’re enjoying a parade, take in the majesty of the Mardi Gras floats and remember all the engineering that took place along with the artistry to make it happen.
Meet us on the balcony
Have you ever been lucky enough to celebrate Mardi Gras from a prized French Quarter balcony? Or maybe you’ve been walking down Royal and caught some beads from people partying on balconies (we won’t judge you for what you did to get the beads). Or maybe you’ve seen a trail of bubbles and looked up to see a balcony decked out in Mardi Gras decorations with a bubble machine hard at work creating a whimsical vibe for everyone to enjoy. You can thank structural engineering for making all of this possible!
The French Quarter’s iconic lacy ironwork balconies are feats of engineering and architecture. Quality structural engineering design is extremely important when it comes to building and maintaining balconies because they must stand up to weather, time, and a whole lot of revelry.
We ROUTE here
Another way engineering impacts the Mardi Gras party is the parade routes themselves. Engineering touches everything, from the width of the streets the parades roll down, to the height of the overpasses that need to allow large structural floats to pass under them, to the safe removal of tree limbs that interfere with the routes, to the construction of viewing stands that keep parade goers safe, each part was carefully designed by engineers, landscape architects, and arborists keeping the Mardi Gras traditions in mind.
Love Mardi Gras? Thank an engineer!
Here in New Orleans, if you’re looking for ideas to celebrate engineering week 2023, you can simply go out and enjoy the magic of mardi gras and marvel at the ways engineering makes it all possible. We like to think this fits right into the theme of creating the future and making the world a better place–we’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has experienced Mardi Gras and not think the world was better for it. From all of us at Batture, we’re wishing you a safe and happy Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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