He's monkeying with a lifelong goal
'This actually started when I was in middle school,' the 22-year-old computer science major said. 'It's been fun and kind of exciting to have this big project to finish out my senior year with.'
On Sunday at noon, Phinney plans to construct the world's longest Barrel of Monkeys chain in the Hopkins Center's Top of the Hop.
The event is free and open to the public.
Phinney, a native of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., was having fun with his middle-school friends playing Barrel of Monkeys, hanging them out of his school's third-story windows, when he had the idea to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by creating the longest chain.
'It was just a random thing in middle school. At the time it was really hip to be into kids' toys,' he said.
Phinney wrote to Hasbro, the maker of Barrel of Monkeys, and Guinness.
Hasbro responded by sending him 10,000 plastic monkeys.
Guinness responded with a long list of rules, one of which made the task more difficult, Phinney thought.
The chain had to be entirely vertical.
'Ultimately the project fizzled out because we couldn't find the perfect venue,' he said.
Ten years later, Phinney realized he was still telling people the story about how he would one day set the world record for the longest Barrel of Monkeys chain.
It was a story that always made people's eyes light up, he said. It was a story that needed an ending.
'It was kind of my go-to thing. It was kind of an ice breaker. I would say 'I have 10,000 plastic monkeys,'' Phinney said. 'I think it's really just a fun, kooky thing to do. Really, I think it's just a fun story.'
Phinney resurrected his plans to set the record last summer, only to learn a bar in Australia had recently set a record of a 3,500-monkey chain.
The bar had not strung the monkeys vertically, but in a garland, Phinney said.
He called Guinness in England, and talked to the head of the 'longest' department,' saying that by his calculations, a vertical chain of 3,500 monkeys could not hold because of its own weight.
Guinness doesn't want to have records that cannot be broken, Phinney said, so the department head agreed to allow his monkey chain to be hung garland-style.
Phinney said he is attempting to hang 5,000 monkeys; he had 10,000 but his father threw away half of the monkeys after Phinney left home for college.
The event is being held as a fundraiser for Child's Play, which provides toys to children in hospitals. Phinney's goal is to raise a dollar for each monkey, which would be $5,000. He is hoping children from the area will participate.
'There is something about being childish, and kind of playing the way that kids do that I really enjoy and that I don't think people make enough time for,' he said.
Phinney participates in an improvisational group on campus and said he likes to organize parties and events that bring people together for what he calls 'random, goofy fun.'
Sunday's event is being organized by The Hacker Club, of which Phinney is a member.
'We're a bunch of nerds that do nice things for the Dartmouth community,' Phinney said, 'web publications and random acts of kindness.'
After he graduates from Dartmouth, he plans to move to San Francisco, where he has been hired by an internet start-up, ecommerce website. At heart, though, he said he is an entrepreneur and eventually plans to start his own company.