Recording rap lyrics about lithium ion batteries and squeezing backup dancers into cars is not a normal day’s work at Idaho National Laboratory.
But the video for “INL Batteryman” is hoping to give an entertaining look at one area of the lab’s work and encourage other national laboratory sites around the country to follow suit with videos of their own.
The idea for the video started in May when the communications department asked employees to send them a limerick about their job. Ryan Jackman, one of the lead engineers in the Battery Test Center, started writing rhymes during his lunch break.
“After a few minutes I realized it was closer to a Beastie Boys rap than a limerick,” Jackman said.
His lyrics didn’t do well in the limerick contest, but INL spokeswoman Nicole Stricker and other communications workers enjoyed the jokes. She followed up with Jackman about turning his entry into a song to help promote the Battery Test Center. Jackman, who is not a huge rap fan but is an amateur musician who has recorded songs on his own, agreed to join in as “BaTTman” and help produce the music in his free time.
He found a license-free beat on YouTube for the song and recorded the lyrics over an hour in his kitchen. Earlier this month, he came to the lab to lip-sync over the song in as many areas of the battery center as he could. At the last minute, two communications interns grabbed tie-dyed lab coats and joined the video as backup dancers.
Among the song’s riffs: “We got the skills for reals/ adding mileage to your wheels.
“When you plug in you know that we wrote the book./ When you see a Tesla, you’ll take another look.”
Chris Morgan shot the two-minute video over the course of an hour. Morgan is the lab’s regular videographer, but this was the first time he had shot a music video.
“I’m all for expanding the scope of how we tell the INL story and get people to know what we do,” Morgan said.
Idaho National Laboratory posted the two-minute video to YouTube and Twitter late Monday. In the tweet promoting the video, INL tagged more than a dozen other labs across the country including Los Alamos and Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory with the challenge to make their own video promoting their work and share it using #NatLabMusicVideoChallenge.
“We try to rope in our sister labs on the areas where we collaborate or overlap. This gave us a chance to show off our battery testing, and now they can make their own music videos,” Stricker said.
The Battery Test Center is the Department of Energy’s primary location for testing new batteries for devices of any kind. Stricker said that 80 percent of all prototype batteries are tested at the Center and Jackman had been involved with some of the biggest developments in how the lab measured energy efficiency and worked with virtual displays.
By the time the video was posted, though, Jackman was no longer working at INL. He left the battery lab on Thursday after receiving a job offer in Pocatello and did not see the final video before it was posted Monday.
“Leaving INL on this kind of note was bittersweet, but it was a lot of fun. I’m glad I got to do something like this during my last month,” Jackman said.
Jackman also said that, if the other labs followed through with videos their own, he’d be open to returning as “BaTTman” for a second song.