The news is, to put it mildly, pretty depressing recently – social media equally so. Twitter timelines are filled with the horrors of war and unspeakable tragedy, so it was a blessed relief that late on Sunday night a tweet which was a source of unadulterated joy started to go viral.
Enter Keith Fraley, a 19-year-old second year student of software engineering at Michigan Tech college, and his tweet about his roommate, Mark, a mechanical engineering student, who arrived home wasted and managed to design an entire plane – and woke up with no memory the next day.
Keith’s tweet has since been retweeted more than 30,000 times and been favourited almost 60,000 times.
Keith and Mark – that’s not his real name, as he’s somewhat worried about his drinking exploits in the context of future employment – agreed to answer some questions about the fact that Michigan Tech students seem to have much more productive periods of being absolutely trashed than the rest of us, who are more usually found racing each other in shopping trolleys and hitting on our colleagues. We spoke to Keith, with input from Mark.
What time did Mark come home, and what had he been drinking? Did he just bowl straight into the aircraft designing, or was there some lead up to this?
It all started around 11.30pm. Mark burst into the room in a drunken sway, asking where his textbooks were and after greeting me he rushed back out of the room. From what the person who brought him up [to the shared accommodation] was saying, Mark had a ton of rum and vodka-mixed drinks.
He then came stumbling back two minutes later to grab his giant whiteboard. I just laughed as I sat on the computer listening to his murmurs. Around 1.30am, he came back and he sat on the couch with a worn look on his face.
My friend Cody and I both looked at Mark as he then began to spew information about his whiteboard designed craft and the calculations behind it. Cody and I were in tears from laughter because the aerospace mathematics he tried telling us about sounded like a slurred robot. I did no encouraging towards the creation of this, but I did encourage him to continue talking because it was hilarious.
Was anyone else lucky enough to witness this?
The guys that Mark shared drinks with were with him for more of the night than I was. They explained to me that Mark began a tantrum and began creating his design. Alex, a friend of Mark’s, said that he began staring at the ground and said that he asked for pen and paper immediately. After he sketched some designs, he said that he needed to leave and grab his aerospace mathematics textbook and whiteboard.
According to his drinking buddies, he was drawing frantically explaining his thoughts out loud and at the time he was very intoxicated. He was passing out on his whiteboard from time to time as well.
Mark’s designs are spread across graph paper, a whiteboard, and a notepad – that’s some real attention to detail and dedication …
Mark, although very intelligent towards math, also works towards industrial design and some minor graphic designing. It is no surprise to me that his work while intoxicated was still very visually appealing.
So, would the aircraft fly? Does the design hold up in a sober setting?
Well technically, it’s not an airplane like I claimed. It’s actually called an ekranoplan, which is more like a very high speed aircraft that floats above the water (Mark is trying to dumb this down for me). Mark says that he imagines his design may work, and he looks forward to trying to recreate his work into a remote-control model with his colleagues …
Has there ever been any kind of inebriated ekranoplan designing before? Or is it normally the more usual fare of traffic cones on heads and falling over garbage cans?
Well normally, we might slap “DRUNK” stickers on our foreheads, but Mark has brought new light to those of us who are unproductive drinkers. Most would think his actions were a result of Adderall or some crazy LSD but his actions were just down to being blackout drunk.
How does it feel for your tweet to have gone viral? It has now been retweeted almost 30,000 times and faved almost 50,000 times. Have your mentions been going crazy?
It was funny to think the tweet up, I could see one of my tweets finally getting some spotlight from my friends , but I couldn’t have imagined it getting as much attention as it did. We were counting the notifications as it went from zero activity to 27,000 retweets and 50,000 favourites in around 12 hours.
What kind of feedback have you had for the tweet? Are people just in hysterics, or have there been engineers out there actually commenting on the design?
Almost all of the feedback we received was surprisingly positive, and many people joked saying that they wanted whatever Mark was having that night. A lot of people also commented saying “drunk goals”.
One person did call Mark out on his design, saying that the tail prop would fail during steep climbs due to low pressure behind the wing, and Mark replied saying that his design was actually an ekranoplan and not an airplane – so it lead to humorous and constructive responses.
Does he genuinely not remember designing the ekranoplan?
It’s actually really funny because he didn’t draw the design on the actual graph paper [in addition to the whiteboard] until he woke up the next morning. He woke me up and he must have been intoxicated still because as I watched him, he realised what he was doing and was struck with confusion and anger.
He doesn’t remember a thing – even the next morning at 9am. He then fell asleep in his chair and woke up about an hour later basically questioning his sanity because of the immense amount of work that was in front of him, with no memory of his motivation to do it.
What does Mark plan on designing next time he is drunk?
He plans on trying to cure cancer or to finalise his design plans for the craft in Siemens NX to be 3D printed later for prototyping.
Finally, if you could both get drunk and design an aircraft with anyone in the world (dead or alive), who would it be?
If we could both get drunk and design an aircraft, Mark explained that he would want it to be with the man who invented and designed the world’s first ekranoplan, Rostislav Alexeyev. I would probably just sit back and document the entire thing on Twitter.
• You can follow Keith on Twitter: @spasepeople
This article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th September 2015 12.05 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010