36 cardboard iMac boxes, packing tape and ingenuity created a viral photo viewed millions of times
 A subsequent YouTube video was viewed more than 250,000 times and featured on CBSNews.com

For more than a year, George Fox University systems administrator Mike Campadore had an idea and 34 iMac boxes stored in the back of an engineering classroom. When the dean of the engineering school asked why he didn’t recycle them and clear up the space, he merely said he was saving them for a project.

When more computers arrived in July for a new computer lab, Campadore finally had the boxes he needed to make his “iWheel.” He had estimated it would take 38 boxes to create the perfect wheel, but when he taped together the two sides, he discovered the number was 36.

On his first attempt, he left the Styrofoam inside the boxes, but it made the wheel too heavy. Even without the extra weight, he estimates the finished product weighs 130 pounds and is nearly nine feet tall.

Finally, on Friday, July 31, Campadore asked IT coworker Rich Bass to help him complete the wheel. The two then rolled it out onto the campus quad and made a call to the university marketing department, which sent a photographer. The initial Facebook post was successful, but when a former student shared the image on Reddit the iWheel quickly rose to the top of the popular website’s homepage and went viral. Within a matter of hours the photo had been viewed 3.4 million times on Imgur, was trending on Tumblr, was posted on Twitter by Chris Espinosa (well-known as Apple’s longest tenured employee) and retweeted more than 8,000 times …


By the end of the weekend, a reverse image search on Google yielded more than 1,300 results. Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 comments were made on Reddit, ranging from praise for Campadore’s creativity to the endless Apple-PC argument to critiques of their apparel. Campadore found it amusing that some of the commenters wanted him fired for putting three of the boxes backwards.

Campadore and Bass, who posed in the wheel for the photo, became minor celebrities. By Sunday, Bass was spotted by a stranger in a Home Depot and asked if he was the guy in the iWheel.

When a YouTube video was released the following Tuesday (Aug. 4), there came a second wave of unexpected attention. The video, which shows Campadore, Bass and other George Fox IT employees riding the wheel around campus, was featured on high profile websites like MSN, Mashable, Business Insider, USA Today and CBSNews.com.

Dozens of emails were received throughout the week asking for permission to either share the video or help monetize it (the latter of which were declined), and well known international news agency Reuters even agreed to distribute the footage. Not to be outdone, local media got in on the action, including KATU News, which sent a reporter to the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore. to interview the two viral stars.

By Friday, Aug. 7 – a full week after the first image went viral – the YouTube video continued to average more than 1,000 views per hour. Even into the following week, new website features and social media posts continued to be generated, many originating from locations around the world, including Russia, Germany and Japan:

Campadore – who used four hours of vacation time to build his creation – dreams he can customize his iWheel to include plastic pipe rails that would allow him to put a revolving chair in the inside of the contraption. And, if he could pull it off, he’d like to make it rocket propelled. Taking into account the online community’s penchant for altering the original iWheel photo, that’s an idea that’s sure to keep the Internet’s Photoshop hobbyists busy for quite a while.


See more photoshopped images on the Reddit PSBattle thread.

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