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Hack proves challenging to remove

Crowds gathered in Lobby 7 Tuesday morning to watch members of Physical Plant's specially-trained Confined Space Rescue Team remove a hack from the upper facade some 60 feet above the floor.

Pranksters had put six styrofoam-type panels in place, covering the words "AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE" with the words "ENTERTAINMENT AND HACKING." Thus, the motto high above he lobby read, "Established for Advancement and Development of Science Its Application to Industry, The Arts, Entertainment and Hacking."

The color and the chiseled letters of the ersatz paneling so closely resembled the original that many passing through the lobby were unaware of the hack. Students apparently put the panels up last Friday between 2 and 6am.

David M. Barber, Physical Plant construction coordinator who heads the special team, said the students left behind indications, including rope scars in the limestone, that they had used safety gear to suspend themselves from the parapet while securing the panels to the facade.

He said they probably were experienced climbers who used proper equipment to avoid risk. For anyone else, it would be dangerous, he said.

The panels were "ingeniously" framed and ribbed together, Mr. Barber said, and held in place by handcrafted, spring-loaded clamps. Removing the panels proved to be a formidable task.

Staging was started at one point before the decision was made to attack the problem from above using the skills of the special rescue team, made up of 12 Physical Plant supervisors.

Wearing hard hats and safety harnesses, four members of the team rappelled over the parapet to remove the panels and lower them to the floor. Glenn A. Wilder and Jack Mannion took down the first two panels. Mr. Barber and Christopher Salter brought down the last four, keeping them together in one piece.

As the last panels reached the floor, onlookers applauded loudly.

Members of the team providing support were John A. Narcotta, Charles L. Katin, George MacLeod, Paul C. Rudack, Alexander Eccles and Howard D. Harrison. Also assisting were Gary F. Cunha and Pat McCann.

The team was careful not to damage the panels so they can be sent to the MIT Museum, Mr. Barber said.

All in all, he added, the operation provided good training for his crew.

A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 3).

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