Hoverboards roll onto campus

Logan Meis, 20, balances on his hoverboard outside his apartment complex in Overland Park, Kan., on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Meis purchased the personal transportation device for about $330 online. (Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS)

Dana Miller

From celebrities to social media, self-balancing scooter boards are steadily becoming a popular mode of transportation, including on Kent State’s campus.

These lithium-ion battery operated boards have many names, including hoverboards, mini-segways and self-balancing scooters. Regardless of which name people choose to call them, they are causing a buzz amongst students and faculty.

To operate the board, the rider puts both feet on the respective sides. To turn left, put more weight on the right foot and push forward, then opposite to turn right. To go forward, lean to the front slightly. To stop, stand straight up and even out the weight in the middle.

According to EntertainmentBox.com, it is all instinctive movement and should feel natural.

“My first impression of it was, ‘How does this thing work?’” said Mika Kristian, a junior marketing major. “I thought it was such a great idea to look into it and tell my friends about it so more word about it would come to this campus.”

The first time Kristian saw someone riding a hoverboard was right on campus.

“It was behind Tri-Towers. I was impressed that so many people, mostly international (students) were using them,” Kristian said. “I decided to go over and ask them what that was and (it seems like) once one person does it everyone wants to come over and try it out.”

Kristian, who has chosen to ride both a bike and skateboard on campus, says he will not be purchasing a self-balancing board. At least, not right now.

“I’m waiting for the new fad to come out,” Kristian said. “This one (the self-balance boards) has been out for quite a while and I just want the newest thing. I know it’s a lot of money (so) I’m waiting for them to drop the rate.”

As of now, hoverboards are produced primarily in China within the same couple of factories. The board’s range in price from $300 to $2,000, depending on what seller it is purchased from.

“You get it from China and they put (company labels) on it,” said Kevin Otubu, a senior entrepreneurship major. “They’re all the same thing. The most popular one is probably PhunkeeDuck because all of the celebrities have those ones, but now the bigger one’s Uwheels.”

Otubu, who is also the director of programming for USG, just recently purchased one along with his twin brother and roommate. He is waiting for it to arrive in the mail. Although he says he plans to use it to mess around for the most part, his entrepreneurial mind has bigger plans.

“If all of us had them and we’re going around the Esplanade and just driving around getting people, that would be amazing,” Otubu said. “It attracts people, so it’s a good way to promote a concert or something (by) pass(ing) out some fliers. You’re going to get someone’s attention and they’ll talk to you.”

Otubu said in his entrepreneurial experience class, he even went as far as to make a business idea of creating a FlashFleet type of system for the self-balance boards.

“I went all the way to the point of contacting the Kent State Police, but then I started thinking about the insurance and upkeep,” Otubu said.

Alex Post, a junior business management major, currently owns one of the self-balancing boards and uses it as transportation for getting to class on campus.

“I purchased it because I saw someone riding one and it looked really cool,” he said. “I thought it would be a fun, quick way to get to class. You can get to class quickly without having to pay for a parking spot.”

Post says for anyone who is skeptical of the boards, they should try them out before making any sort of judgment.

“I thought it looked goofy at first and it looked like it was hard (to ride),” said Zachary Eubank, a sophomore computer information systems major. “Then they started to look cool to me.”

Kent State faculty had some of the same increasingly positive responses to these futuristic self-balancing boards.

“I actually just saw one the other day,” said Tom Euclide, associate vice president of facilities and planning and operations. “It’s a natural evolution (of transportation); I would promote it.”

Euclide believes that regardless of what type of alternative transportation hoverboards are, they’re good for the campus.

“We are catching up to the more innovative schools that… 15 years ago were pushing bicycles and walking as the primary mode for transportation with a college community,” Euclide said. “Cars become secondary, not needed at all and I look forward to the day that that’s the case here at Kent State; that more students are leaving their cars at home than bringing them to the university.”

Euclide also said he does not see the university needing to do anything to accommodate the boards since they are a piece of portable personal property.

Students, however, would like to see some ways of change.

“I keep it next to my chair in the classroom,” Post said. “While they are convenient for transportation, they are somewhat bulky, heavy and difficult to store.”

Otubu said he would like to see further accommodations made on the Esplanade for new forms of transportation.

“I think we need to extend the bike paths because students do not actually ride on (them),” Otubu said. “And not just all bricks because it’s kind of bumpy so I know for the hover-boards it’s going to be pretty bumpy.”

These self-balancing boards are said to be the hot item of choice on Christmas lists this year, according to USA Today.  However, they won’t be easy to obtain. 

USA Today said finding them in retail stores will be less than easy and although ordering online is cheaper, the shipping will take a while.

It was also said on USA Today that the Del Amo shopping center in Torrance, California would have a kiosk in the mall offering them this Thanksgiving weekend for around $500, cash only, making it quite limited for customers in that area.

The next best bet for finding one from a trusted website other than eBay and Amazon is Target, as Wal-Mart is said to be out of stock and Toys-R-Us doesn’t carry them.

While they are increasing in popularity among young people, some issues arose in New York City about the boards.

According to The Guardian, the so-called hoverboards are now illegal on the streets of New York City. NYPD had confirmed that since the hoverboards are motor vehicles that cannot be registered, they are not allowed in streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Anyone who is caught riding them around is at risk of a $500 fine.

As of now, there are no restrictions for Ohio.

“The use of skateboards, roller-blades, bicycles and similar conveyances on campus is regulated in the university policy register,” said Jeff Futo, a Kent State police officer. “The policy exists so that their use does not interfere with pedestrians, create a hazard to others or damage university property.”

Futo said that the university has not yet come to a point where there needs to be any sort of restrictions on the boards. However, if the riders are not following university policy, he said a possibility exists that KSUPD would enforce actions.

As for now, the innovations like these hoverboards seem to remain a topic of interest to students regardless of any controversy. If anything, most students have agreed that, it just looks “cool.”

“It’s just very innovative (and) everyone likes the stuff that looks like it’s in the future,” Otubu said. “Students want everything that looks trendy, something that’s going to spot the attention and catch the eye.”

Contact Dana Miller at [email protected]