Georgia Tech Announces Change to Historic Steam Whistle

Georgia Tech Announces Change to Historic Steam Whistle

Beginning today, Georgia Tech students and all inhabitants in the City of Atlanta will no longer be awoken early in the morning with the piercing, yet iconic, sound of the steam whistle. Due to a new ordinance by the Federation of Operational Linguistics and Sounds (FOOLS), all public sounds aired in non-closed areas must be at a frequency either below 20,000 Hz or above 35,000 Hz.  

A team of Georgia Tech engineers comprised of four students and one faculty member have been modifying the whistle to meet the new requirements. With the date quickly approaching to meet the Federation’s deadline, these Yellow Jackets are definitely not whistling while they work. 

“The process of dismantling a 130-year-old, finely tuned, noise making apparatus is not an easy task,” said Gabriel Warbler, a professor in the newly formed School of Audiological Engineering. “We don’t want to lose the distinctive steam exiting the whistle because that is important imagery to maintain for our students and alumni, but finding a way to muffle or change the frequency has been challenging.” 

The students that signed up and sacrificed their Spring Break are dedicated to solving the problem. 

“Sometimes it just makes you want to yell, scream, or screech,” said second-year mechanical engineering student Angela Tone, “But, we wanted to be a part of the team to figure this out. It resonates with us.” 

The news of the change has started to reach native Atlantans, and the response is not expected to just blow over. John Rackett is one Yellow Jacket alumnus that is steamed about the ordinance. A 16-year resident in midtown, the whistle has remained a part of his daily routine. 

“I think it is ridiculous!” Rackett exclaimed. “I’ve saved ten, no, twenty dollars over the last several years because I don’t need an alarm clock. Every night, I sleep with my window open and every morning I wake up to that beautiful sound blasting through the city. It just won’t be the same.” 

Still, as news reverberated around campus and students returned to class this week, there were many in favor of a muted whistle. 

“On Monday and Wednesday, I don’t have class until 11,” said Phillip Ecko, a first-year student that lives on East Campus. “I’m in one of the closest dorms. It’s so loud. If I don’t get my sleep, I’m a wreck.” 

Warbler hopes the adjustments the team is making will appease students like Ecko, while also keeping the familiar elements of Georgia Tech’s oldest tradition.  

“We can’t please everybody, but we have come up with a pretty good plan,” Warbler said with a smile. “We’re going to set the frequency to over 35,000 Hz.” 

The human ear stops picking up frequencies above 35,000 Hz, but the sound is still audible for canines. The change would make a visit to campus from any kind of dog quite uncomfortable.