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. 

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

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

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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

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

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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).

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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

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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). 

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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

 

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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

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This trebuchet launches softball size water balloons 50 - 70 yards using human (kid) power. It is portable (quickly folds down for car top carrying) and uses easy to acquire supplies found at Home Depot or Lowes Home Improvement.

I originally designed this for the kids area of the Lake Eden Arts Festival (theLEAF.org) where we launched water balloons at a large cardboard castle.The video below shows the trebuchets in action at TEDx Katuah 2011 where I was asked to provide a "hands on science" experience for conference attendees. At the TEDx event we launched "deer apples" (rotting apples) instead of water balloons and our best throw with the apples was 85 yards.

Thurburn_barker_trebuchetThe TEDx Katuah event was held at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (www.PARI.edu) which was originally designe for the NASA space program.  After NASA, the CIA used PARI to spy on the Russians. One of the employees at PARI is Thurburn Barker (pictured here with my son).  Mr. Barker worked for NASA during the early days of the manned space program and he was fascinated with the trebuchets.

Since the TEDx Katuah 2011 event I've continued to improve on the trebuchet design, especially the end of the throwing arm. 

 

 

View video of the trebuchet in action below: