Flying things

Hovercraft Workshop at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering

On March 12,  2014 I visited  A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering in Greenville, SC and led three 90 minute hovercraft workshops (one for each of the three 5th grade classes).

Read an article about this amazing school in The Atlantic  CLICK HERE

 

Here's the 2 minute highlight video: 

The workshop starts with a discussion comparing Engineering and Science. We then discuss the Engineering Design Process and compare it to the Scientific Method. Then we discuss friction and determine if it is good or bad. This leads to a discussion about hovercrafts, friction, and "lift". Then we start building mini hovercrafts out of old CDs and balloons. 

Cdhover_3

Cdhover_1

Cdhover_2

We then discuss the difference between "lift" and "thrust" -- both are critical for hovercraft locomotion. Students experiment with a balloon as it provides thrust.

Thrut_1

With an understanding of lift and thrust it's time to ride the big hovercraft powered by a leaf blower.

Hover_2

Hover_5

Hover_4

At the end of the day I led a 60 minute workshop for the teaching staff on "How To Teach Leadership in the Engineering Classroom". This is a fun, experiential workshop that got the teachers talking about leadership and teamwork in their classroom. I led activities found in the IATF Team Building Games Archive found inside the IATF Members Only Area

DSCF6707

Teacher_1

Big thanks to Mr. Hamilton Parks of A.J. Whittenberg School of Engineering who made this day possible. 

DSCF6705


ROCKETS made from paper!

 

Rockets made from paper and powered by compressed air are one of my favorite projects to lead with kids. 

A quick google search will point you to several launcher designs and I've included the design I most like below. Click on the link below to download the PDF.

Download Rocket_launcher_plans

Although the above plans do work, I've made some improvements to the pressurization valve and the air release system. 

Click on the photo below to view larger version of the pressurization valve (different than what is shown in the plans above).

DSCF6228

 

 

 

 

I've replaced the 3/4 inch "ball valve" (item # 13 in the plans) with a battery operated sprinkler valve I purchased through amazon. You can find this valve at amazon by searching for:

Orbit 57100 3/4-Inch Female Pipe Threaded Auto Inline Sprinkler Valve

Sprinkler_valve

 

 

 

 

 

The above valve easily replaces the 3/4 ball valve described in the plans. The sprinkler valve works well with a simple 9 volt battery. I purchased the black plastic box that holds the battery at Radio Shack. The "launch activator" was made from PVC pipe I had laying around and the red button that completes the circuit (battery, sprinkler valve, launch activator) was purchased at Radio Shack. The battery box hinge is a piece of black duct tape. I keep the lid closed with velcro. The box is attached to the PVC pipe with a hose clamp.

The sprinkler valve is superior to the ball valve because it releases air quicker allowing you to launch rockets higher with lower air pressure. A well made paper rocket will launch hundreds of feet in the air with only 45 pounds of pressure when using the sprinkler valve. To get that same kind of elevation with the ball valve you would need a much higher pressure (90 psi). 

DSCF6229

 

 

 

DSCF6230

 

 

 

DSCF6231

 

 

 

DSCF6232

 

 

 

DSCF6233

 

 

 

 

 

Below I've attached a one page PDF "template" that, if printed on a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper or card stock, allows you to make a rocket. See the video below at the bottom of this post to learn how to make a rocket from the PDF template.

Download Maker_rocket_template_022314

If this type of thing interests you than please check out MAKE Magazine and attend a Maker Faire. I'm a member of the Asheville Maker Community

 

DSCF6183

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch the video below to learn how to make a rocket using the template found above. 


Hovercraft -- weekend DIY project

On Saturday February 9, 2013 my daughter and her friend helped me build a hovercraft. In just two hours we were floating across the floor!

We started with one 4'x4' piece of plywood (4 ply) that is 1/2 inch thick.

Lift is provided by an electric TORO leaf blower but I plan to upgrade to a cordless (battery powered) leaf blower.I prefer electric over gas power because I plan to only use this indoors.

For the hovercraft to move forward it must be pushed (or pulled).

The hovercraft worked great on the cement floor of the warehouse. It did not work well outside on asphalt (pavement).

This hovercraft was inspired by a project in the MAKE Magazine blog HERE.

Science of hovercrafts found HERE.

 


Near Space Balloon Launch

In the fall of 2012 I helped a group of middle school students send a GoPRO HD video camera to "near space".  What follows are the details of the project.

Here is the 3 minute video showing the highlights of the launch and recovery:

Asheville, NC Tedx Near Space Project from Peter Lutz on Vimeo.

 

 

Project Facts:

  • 1200 gram latex weather balloon was filled with 150 cubic feet of helium -- weather balloon was approximately 6 feet in diameter at lift off.
  • Payload was an off-the-shelf styrofoam cooler that was modified for this project.
  • Payload weighed 4 pounds.
  • Payload contents included: GoPRO Hero 2 HD video camera with a 32 GB memory card and extra battery pack, SPOT gps unit, PocketFinder gps unit, personal items from each student
  • Launched on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 9:20 am EST
  • Launching location:  Francine Delany New School for Children Charter School (www.fdnsc.net) in Asheville, NC
  • This project was a collaboration between the school and TEDx Asheville 2012.

more coming...


Trebuchet -- human powered, portable, water balloon launching



Cover of PortaTreb ebook
Complete and detailed build-it-yourself plans are now available for immediate download on the Amazon Kindle platform. Only $9.99 US 

CLICK HERE

 

I call it the "PortaTreb" (Portable Trebuchet). It's a portable human powered trebuchet that can launch softball size water balloons up to 50 yards and other objects (like softballs and apples) much further.

In my 88 page e-book (Amazon Kindle) you'll find detailed step-by-step plans for building a PortaTreb. I provide a list of materials (your shopping list), tools needed, procedures for measuring and cutting, how to make a throwing pouch that works, how to make an "anti slam pad" that will help prevent the throwing arm from cracking and last ten times longer, how to make an "anti headache rope" that will help prevent you from being hit in the head by the throwing arm, and more! I've even included plans for a fold up plywood castle that you can use as a target. The PortaTreb is designed to fold up and transport on your car roof racks and conveniently store in your garage.

I'm a former high school STEM education teacher and have used the PortaTreb at schools to help bring history lessons and science lessons to life. I've used the PortaTreb at Maker Faires and Music Festivals where a wide range of kids have enjoyed launching water balloons long distances.

 

 

 


How to dramatically enter a conference

I was hired by the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to design and deliver a 3-day leadership development program for 120 employees from across the state.  I wanted to start the conference off in a memorable way - - no boring stuff here!