Gliders: In Production!

A quick update on our Advanced Engineering II glider project: the students are currently hard at work translating their theoretical calculations into hand-made reality. The problem is at first daunting; how do you create the various parts of a flying machine, according to a specific design? There are dozens of materials that might be chosen for each component, and the production needs to be accurate enough and cheap enough and quick enough and repeatable enough!

Aaron lines his twenty ribs carefully
in place, ready to glue

All teams have settled on a 3D-printed rib-and-spar design for the wings, although the exact rib profile varies in size and shape. All teams are using carbon fiber square tubes for the spars (the long beams that run through from wing tip to wing tip). Some teams are planning on skinning their wing with cellophane, and others are planning on tissue paper and dope (a kind of glue that tightens and hardens the paper).

Kylie and Josh and Luke are producing
the largest, thickest ribs of all teams
(sounds delicious, in fact)

To see some interactive CAD models that Tys and Mikaela and Colby and Victor are working on, click here.

Other components, such as the undercarriage and fuselage and tail, are being made from 3D-printed parts, balsa sheets, more carbon fiber, and even colorful pipe cleaners.

Victor, Colby, and Mikaela go over the particulars of their CAD
model with Dr. Nathan Gates, retired aerospace engineer

Megan and Caleb receive valuable
advice from our classroom mentor

To help with the design process, we asked retired aerospace engineer Dr. Nathan Gates to visit our classroom. Dr. Gates moved around the different teams to consult with them. Each team explained their design, and received valuable feedback as to their construction plans. Dr. Gates’ area of expertise was structural mechanics; he was doubtlessly overqualified for this role!

Proud Providence alumna Willow looks over Gabe’s and Eva’s
wing design

To further sweeten the deal, we also asked Willow Brown, Providence alumna (2015), to come by on the same day. Willow’s sister, Kylie, is on a team with Luke and Josh. Willow is currently studying mechanical engineering at Loyola Marymount University. Did this give Kylie and her team an unfair advantage? Only time will tell.

The maiden voyage is fast approaching, so watch this space. There’s more coming up later this year, too—students will design, print, and build quadcopter drones. Stay posted, and thank you to Dr. Gates and Willow!

MS Engineering: The Final Challenge!

Wow! What an incredible display of robotic strength and fortitude! Mr. Meadth would like to thank all of the eighteen middle school students who worked so hard and waited so long to show their programming prowess. Many thanks also to all of the many parents who came to watch.

Mr. Meadth watches for adherence to the rules of competition
as Kassy and Miranda head off against Tzevon and Mark
Tully and Dennis make the final checks as Audrie and Jeffry
prepare their program

Miranda and Kassy with the biggest, blockiest
bot of them all!

After a gripping round of preliminaries, it was clear that Jon and Ella were not to be beaten, consistently needing only 43 seconds both times to get all three cubes in the goal. Ryan and Gideon zoomed down the line with double wins, as fast as 37 seconds. Kassy and Miranda took it slow and steady, but won both matches with an average of 2:19. A special qualifying round also put Liza and Kaitlyn through with their prize horse, with a record-breaking 18 seconds!

Tully and Dennis proudly showing their machine

Ryan and Gideon were very proud of their
geared-up racer
In the elimination round, Liza and Kaitlyn beat out Jon and Ella with a lightning-fast 21 seconds. The secret? High speed gear ratios, where Jon and Ella stuck to direct drive. And in a stunning upset, Ryan and Gideon lost out–despite their high speed gears–to the perfectly consistent Kassy and Miranda, who beat their previous times by over a minute!
Mark and Tzevon designed a conveyor belt to
get their cubes in the box

Jeffry and Audrie went for the “tall tricycle” design

In an all-girl final round, Liza and Kaitlyn made the first drop. But they fumbled the second, and Kassy and Miranda faithfully dropped theirs in the box to equal the scores. A couple of unforced errors, some bouncing out, and the scores were again tied at two all! In the end, however, nothing could stop the speed and accuracy of Liza and Kaitlyn, who wrapped it all up with an impressive time of 49 seconds! Well done, girls!
For more photos and videos, students can use their Providence Google accounts to check out Miss Hurlbert’s online folder, here.

From left to right (rear): Mr. Meadth, Gideon, Jeffry, Audrie,
Kassy, Miranda, Liza, Kaitlyn, Ella, Lily, Paul, Angel
Front: Jon, Evan

MS Engineering: A Photo Update

The MS Engineering students just finished their penultimate project: to build a “stock” model according to instructions, and then to program it themselves to get it to work. This is a warm-up to their final project, which sees them build and program their very own robot in The Final Challenge without any instructions or other assistance.

Enjoy the photos, and feel free to browse our other articles, most of which are focused on the high school Academy. Send your comments and questions to us at rmeadth@providencesb.org.

Ryan and Mark show off their Znap, which moves around in
random directions, snapping at anything that comes too close;
apologies for poor photography!

Gideon and Kaitlyn built a challenging Elephant, which walks
and picks up items with its articulated trunk–very impressive! 

Dennis and Tully also put together a Znap, and learned a lot
about the importance of distinguishing between sensor and
motor ports!

Kassy and Liza (absent) also built an Elephant, which had an
impressively choreographed trunk routine complete with sound
effects; we also wanted to see if it could tip over one of the
puppies 

Evan and Angel built the only Robot Arm H25; it is something
similar to a factory assembly robot, picking up and releasing
objects within its reach

Jonny and Ella put together the only Stair Climber, which was
able to successfully climb the pile of books pictured 

A (mostly) successful earlier test run of the Stair Climber

Tzevon and Paul with their own Elephant and its unique slow-
motion dance routine

Audrie and Miranda consider their robot Puppy–almost as
troublesome as the real thing! 

Jeffry and Lily describing some of the challenges of just getting
their Puppy to stand and sit–who knew it would be so much work?!

MS Engineering: The First Month

The popularity of the middle school engineering program at Providence has really taken off this year; for the first time, we will be admitting eighteen students in both first and second semester! It’s our largest class size yet for this program, which is exciting. But what exactly, I hear you ask, are students doing in that class?

We kicked off the year with some pretty standard stuff. Newton’s Laws kept us busy for a little while, talking about how objects in this universe move and interact. The highlight of this unit would have to be the inertia demonstration. Remove one tablecloth very quickly from underneath a dinner set, and hope that inertia does its job! Ryan was a very cooperative test subject.

The students also started the year with some simple challenges, focusing on teamwork, speed, and intuitive design. How many textbooks can you hold up, at least five inches off the table, using only two sheets of paper and a yard of tape? By the way, you only have two minutes to plan and three minutes to build! The class record is 26, held by Josh and Pedro a couple of years ago, but hats off this year to Audrie and Kassy, holding 12 books six inches high. At 3.6 pounds per textbook, that’s 43 pounds!

Paul and Lily look on as Ella places her third book; unfortunately,
it was the straw that broke the camel’s back

The most recent challenge was to build a bridge between two desks. After learning some basic principles of structural mechanics (triangle rigidity and maximizing the second moment of area of the cross-section), the students set about the task. We always talk in terms of constraints in this class, and the various constraints were as follows:

Materials:
Only allowed to use LEGO beams from a provided parts list
Time:
Three days of class
Personnel:
Teams of two
Length:
As long as possible (maximize)
Load:
Must support wooden train tracks (static load) and a motorized train running across it (dynamic load)
Other:
Must demonstrate the principles of good bending structures that we talked about
After breaking into teams, the students quickly set about collecting their pieces, and sketching their designs. Our enthusiastic students snapped together beams and frames, doing their best to imitate the rigid triangular structures they had been shown.
Gideon, Liza, and Kaitlyn working hard!

Tensions ran high (no pun intended) as the heavy little locomotive crawled across the tracks. The length of the bridges varied widely, from the shortest at 30 cm (1 ft) to the longest at 99 cm (over 3 ft). But most importantly: would the helpless engine tumble into the chasm?

The little engine thought it could, and so did Dennis and Jeffry,
with their sharply defined triangles clearly showing

Audrey and Kassy almost lost their load, but everything held
together in the end!

Miranda and Evan held their breath as the locomotive crawled
across their creation
In fact, although we desperately wanted to see some disaster, not a single one of the bridges failed! This is a new record in the engineering elective, and perhaps a tribute to their collective wisdom and skill (or maybe to their teacher?).
The next challenge? Use their knowledge of torque and rotation to build a crane that can lift as much load as possible.
Kassy and Evan carefully plan their motorized crane
Ella applies the power of a protractor

Dennis and Paul take a break from the drawing board to pose
for the camera

Tully and Liza consider Mr. Meadth’s past designs
Stay tuned, and don’t forget to ask your students how the work is coming!

Final Project: Bomb Disposal Robot

The Foundations of Engineering II group finished off their year with an exciting capstone project: design, build, and program a bomb disposal robot, such as that used by special tactical groups around the world.

A real bomb disposal robot, complete with camera, manipulator
claw, and disruptor

(One quick word needs to be said from the outset: this project was carefully and sensitively planned. It was made clear to the students that this was not making light of terrorism, explosives, or other acts of crime. Rather, this was another chance to show how our engineering skills can be used to create things that combat pain and suffering and sinful acts; such robots actually keep humans out of the way of harm as much as possible.)

The students were split into three groups at random, and they set about sketching their designs, in accordance with the design brief. Each robot was required to move through the following phases:

  1. Power up and deploy, moving down a ramp.
  2. Make its way to a classroom with a “locked door” (it was made of wood and foamboard!).
  3. Break through the door and enter the hostile zone.
  4. Locate the active “bomb”, and take it back through the door to a safe location outside.
  5. Neutralize the bomb with a built-in disruptor.
    The “bomb”, made out of LEGO Mindstorms pieces, with a touch-
    sensitive touch plate on top

    Within a matter of days, the three teams had settled on their designs, and were putting together large, strong bases for their robot. Needless to say, there were no instructions to follow! Ingenuity, teamwork, and a little bit of teacher input were the tools at hand.

    Eva led her team (Colby, Todd, and David) to include the following features: a rectangular base, a balanced torque/speed arrangement for the wheels, a controllable claw to grapple with the bomb, a giant “cattle catcher” wedge to push through the door, and a chain drive to aim the disruptor up and down. Initial tests worked very well in the classroom, with a high success rate of neutralizing the bomb. Their teamwork was first-rate, with an astounding level of co-ordination and efficiency between the four of them. The team was comfortably ready in time for the demonstration.

    Eva’s team’s early design, with base and claw in place

    Colby demonstrates the surprising
    strength of the robot, dragging a stool
    across the room!

    An almost-final version, with the disruptor now mounted; note the
    chain drive to pivot and aim the disruptor

    Todd’s “cattle catcher” came out perfectly first time, made with a
    simple but beautiful loft between two triangles

    The finished product, ready and raring
    to go!

    Alena had her first chance at leadership so far this year, with Jakob, Samy, and Claire working alongside. Their robot went for a rectangular base, a higher speed at the wheels, a forklift to actually raise the bomb off the floor to carry it, and a fixed angle for their disruptor. They were then able to use their extra motor to build a high-speed 3D-printed circular saw, for breaking through the foamboard door. That’s right–a 3D-printed circular saw! Extra code was built in to ensure that the saw would only activate with a very intentional button sequence!

    An early version of Alena’s team’s solution, with a solid base
    constructed (note the “omni-wheels” that allow the robot to more
    easily pivot left and right)

    Alena works on her CAD pieces, Jakob writes code, and Samy
    “checks the disruptor for functionality”

    An early outdoor test; note the addition
    of a forklift system on the front

    The forklift and fixed disruptor are now clearly visible

    Claire works to add in the 3D-printed circular saw

    Yes, this actually did work! (Slowly…)

    Lastly, Josh led his team (Ben, Victor, and Alec) to good success with a larger, more square-ish base, a simple but highly effective spike for punching through the door, an extremely low-speed/high-torque gearing for the wheels, a claw to grab the bomb, and a chain drive to aim their disruptor. They went for the slow-but-strong approach, which made perfect sense for a challenge where time was not a mandated constraint.

    The early days of Josh’s team’s design, with the highest torque to
    the wheels of any team (the tiny gear coming from the black motors
    to the large gears at the wheels ensures this)

    Later on, a manipulator claw was added, as well as a powerful
    spike, designed by Alec

    Josh instructs his team in proper safety protocol, as Victor looks
    and Alec attaches the disruptor

    The final stages, with a chain drive now added to the disruptor

    While all this was happening over the course of several weeks, the teacher assistants Aaron and Kylie put together the door itself, complete with 3D-printed working hinges and deadbolt. Their woodworking skills were put to good use in building a simple frame to hold it all together.

    The frame and foamboard door; note the hot pink 3D-printed
    working hinges and deadbolt, courtesy of Kylie’s design skills

    On the day of the demonstration, the young engineers eagerly followed along behind the robots as they drove one by one up to the door. After much pushing, and ramming, and cutting, all three robots were able to break through and enter the room. Of special note was Alena’s 7″ diameter circular saw, which took about two or three minutes to shred the deadbolt!

    Eva’s team attempts to push through the door with brute force and
    the “wedge” principle

    Alena’s team gets ready to cut through the door; note the cyan
    spike added to the rear as a backup plan

    Josh’s team pushes through quickly with a simple spike

    The robots located the bomb, flashing and beeping in the dark. The bomb was rigged with a pressure-sensitive touchplate on the top, which would have activated if the bomb was fumbled. All teams successfully took the bomb outside with no incident (other than the wind blowing the door shut again!).

    Eva’s team drags the bomb cautiously away towards the door,
    Colby at the wheel

    Alena’s team’s unique forklift method worked perfectly, deftly
    carrying the bomb to the exit

    Josh’s team pulls the bomb over some tricky terrain and back
    through the door

    With the bomb safely outside away from civilians, the robots aimed their air-powered disruptors at the bomb. This is a real tactic that bomb disposal robots use; the idea is that a quick blast from a shotgun shell should immediately destroy all triggers and batteries and other mechanisms, thereby preventing the actual detonation.

    Eva’s group and Alena’s group took a few shots to disarm the bomb (the trigger plate didn’t “feel” their bullets enough to switch off), and Josh’s team got it first try!

    Eva’s team squares up, trying to find the best angle

    Alena’s team hugs the package tightly, and goes in for the finish

    Josh’s team readies, aims, and fires!
    Eva, David, Colby, and Todd celebrate a job well done!

    Jakob, Claire, Alena, and Samy proudly pose behind their robot

    Ben, Alec, Josh, and Victor enjoy a job well done

    All teams are to be congratulated on a solid, successful performance. The growth exhibited by these students throughout the year is phenomenal–where they once were fumbling with the most basic code lines and how to attach pieces, they now moved through it swiftly and expertly, with a minimum of guidance from the teacher. No teams suffered critical failure, as some had on previous projects, and it was a delight to see the hard work paying off.

    If you want to watch the entire play in action, please access them in this shared folder. You are welcome to download or watch online–the videos of each team are over ten minutes long!

    Excellent work all, and we’ll see you next year!

    From left to right: Mr. Meadth, Kylie (T.A.), Jakob, Alena, Samy, Claire, Eva,
    David, Colby, Todd, Alec, Victor, Josh, Aaron (T.A.); (Ben absent)

    MS Science and Engineering Expo Photos

    Thanks to all students, parents, and teachers for another incredible evening! The quality of the exhibits was high, and we could tell you worked hard. Enjoy the photos and videos below–you can click/tap on them to enlarge.

    Tessa and Chloe show their Rube Goldberg dog feeding machine

    Small children are enthralled!

    The dogs enjoyed the show, too

    A functional, hand-cranked, 3D-printed
    Archimedean Screw

     

    Jed and Ben show Lower Campus students their French Revolution
    demonstration–fruit was definitely harmed in the making of this
    exhibit!

     

    …but put to good use in the
    Blender Bicycle by Cate and Valeria!
    Don’t forget to hold that lid on!

     

    Mercy and Jenny help Mrs. Short to understand key principles of
    buoyancy, density, and mass–looks like exciting stuff!

    Christine and Ashlynne with their impressive pulley arrangements

    Pedro and Julian with their LEGO version of the legendary
    Claw of Archimedes

    Lux and Olivia put together this
    impressive homemade hydraulic
    robot arm–well done, girls!

    Selene, Mr. Hougo, and Asher prepare a live demonstration of
    a compound pulley system

    Doing fine, three feet off the ground
    Also doubles as a “time out” device
    for small children (it’s all right–it’s
    Mr. Meadth’s son)
    Caleb and Michael explored another
    apocryphal war engine: the Archimedes
    Death Ray!

     

    Chloe and Ava with a motorized Aerial Screw, taken straight from
    the pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook

    Kayode and Josh lift 80 pounds of concrete and steel with a 3:1
    mechanical advantage

    Dylan and Jordan produced another
    engine of war: the tennis ball ballista!

    Sam and Tommy with their homemade motorized paper plane
    launcher!  Standard equipment for every boy aged 5 to 105

     

    Belen and Erica with an array of
    marshmallow catapults

    A surprising number of marshmallows never made it to the catapults

    When Mr. Alker’s son wasn’t eating them, Mr. Alker was

    Deacon and Chris were popular with
    the racing crowd, tracking time, speed,
    momentum, and kinetic energy

    Julian and Zak loading a high-tension catapult, constructed entirely
    of steel frame–be sure to watch the videos!

    Once again, well done 8th Grade! Finish the year strong, and we’ll do this again next year.

    MS Science and Engineering Expo–Monday!

    The Providence Engineering Academy and the MS Science Department are excited to present the second annual Middle School Science and Engineering Expo. It will be held at the Providence Upper Campus (630 East Canon Perdido Street) on Monday, April 24 from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Entry is free, and refreshments will be provided.

    Levers, pulleys, and screws, oh my! The theme is “Machines”, with a medieval/Renaissance twist. The students have spent a month preparing their projects, building catapults, pulley systems, Archimedean war engines, and more. The interactive exhibits will be running the entire time, so come learn and support our students at this fun, family-friendly event!

    Erica and Belen carefully design their catapult poster
    Dylan with his very impressive
    tennis ball ballista

    Science history buffs might recognize this one–Eureka!

    Julian with an almost-finished Archimedean war engine

    Is that a blender on the back of that bike, Valeria? Smoothie to go!

    Chloe with a scale model of Leonardo’s aerial screw

    (Many thanks to Kylie from the Providence Engineering Academy for helping write this article.)

    Project Demonstration: RC Cars On Lower Campus

    Elementary school students at our Lower Campus received a special treat last Friday when the students of the Foundations of Engineering II class demonstrated their latest project: remote-controlled cars. Utilizing much of the same equipment as the self-driving car project of last semester (i.e. the Vex robotics kits, CAD, and lots of trial and error), three teams of students constructed cars that they operated via a video game controller. After many weeks of hard work, multiple prototypes, and perseverance, the cars could move forwards, backwards, and turn on a dime with rack-and-pinion steering (well, maybe a silver dollar). Each car also had a built-in payload delivery system that deposited a 3D-printed figure at the push of a button, and a rear-wheel differential gearbox to allow for better cornering.

    The afternoon’s proceedings began with a brief introduction of the project to the 5th and 6th Grade students, given by the engineering students’ teacher, Mr. Rodney Meadth. Mr. Meadth outlined the goals of the project and recounted some of the difficulties the students faced during the design process.

    Mr. Meadth warms up the crowd before the demonstration


    During Mr. Meadth’s introduction, the three teams of students worked diligently to set up their cars. As with the self-driving car project, each of the three teams comprised four students, with distinct roles as follows:

    • Team Leader: co-ordinate efforts, give attention wherever needed, be an all-around expert in everything.
    • Mechanical Engineer: primarily responsible for building the physical structure of the robot, mounting sensors, and attaching custom parts.
    • Programmer: working on code that will navigate the robot around the course, incorporating sensor feedback and motor outputs to ensure success.
    • CAD Specialist: design custom parts in a CAD program (all students used Onshape), and then print them out for use in actuality.


    Team ESTA makes their final preparations (Eva, Samy, Todd, Alena)

    After the introduction, the teams each performed a solo demonstration of their vehicle. The demonstration consisted of navigating a course and delivering the car’s payload to a marked target area on the floor.

    First up was Team ESTA, with Eva, Samy, Todd, and Alena. After placing their vehicle at the starting line, the team carefully drove through the course towards the payload drop-off zone. With some slight course adjustments, ESTA managed to successfully deposit their payload, showing off their unique hinged box delivery system. Alena worked for weeks and went through several prototypes to ensure the hinges mated correctly, and could be driven by a VEX motor. Her online CAD file is publicly available here–you can even open and close the box by grabbing the lid with your mouse!

    Next came Team JABS (Josh, Alec, Ben, David), whose car intimidated the competition with bright orange, spiked hubcaps and a crimson racing flag bearing their team name. They too successfully navigated the course and delivered the payload, though at a slightly slower pace than that of Team ESTA.
    The Team JABS car living up to its team
    name with some intimidating spiked hubcaps, designed by Alec


    After overcoming some controller connection issues, the final team, JCVC (Jakob, Colby, Victor, Claire), demonstrated their car. JCVC’s vehicle was the simplest of the three, lacking the adornments or sophisticated payload system of the other two competitors, but what it lacked in sophistication, it made up in the form of speed, being the fastest of the three to complete the assigned task.

    With the end of the individual demonstrations, came the main event of the day: a race between the three cars around the track to determine which team had built the best remote controlled car. The elementary school students were abuzz with delight as the three teams lined up their vehicles at the starting line. The question on everyone’s mind: Who will be victorious? 

    The tension is palpable as the cars take their starting positions
    for the race; from left to right: JABS, ESTA, JVCV


    With a shout of, “Go!” from Mr. Meadth, the cars raced down the track. However, the chances of victory for one team were extinguished in mere seconds. Team JABS, despite an impressive showing in the individual demonstrations, suffered an immediate steering malfunction that, in spite of their best troubleshooting efforts, ultimately kept them out of the race. The two remaining cars continued to zoom around the track, largely neck and neck for several laps.

    In a huge upset, Team JCVC suddenly suffered a critical mishap! As Team JABS attempted to resolve their steering issues on the track, they (accidentally?) managed to ram the “emergency off” button on the side of JCVC! This left only one car still standing, still making consistently strong laps. Team ESTA ended by pulling confidently into the drop-off zone and depositing their payload perfectly, eliciting a roar of applause from the 5th and 6th Grade!

    Team ESTA members Samy, Alena, Todd, and Eva revel
    in their victory

    After the race’s conclusion, Mr. Meadth brought up the winning team and opened the session up to questions from the audience. When asked by one of the Lower Campus students how one goes about making a project of this difficulty, Team Leader Eva encouraged the student to, “always ask for help, be patient, plan stuff out, and don’t be afraid of failure.” Programmer Todd answered a question about the coding process by calling for perseverance amidst “a lot of failures” in order to eventually find success.

    The RC car demonstration on Lower Campus was a thrill for all in attendance, from the delighted elementary students to their cheering teachers. Well done to all teams for the many weeks of hard work leading up to this, and especially to Team ESTA!

    Space Station Design: Engineers Bring CAD Expertise to Physics Class

    In Mr. Hurt’s Physics class, freshmen and sophomore students are currently designing space stations. Pictured here are the printed CAD models of some of those space stations. Note the circular symmetry in each that allows rotational motion to simulate gravity.

    Student work from left to right: Todd, Victor, Josh, Alec, Alena

    In the past, this project was a mathematical exercise and a simple drawing. This year, thanks to the Engineering Academy, the students were able to go beyond simple drawings and numbers on a page. The Providence engineers took their group’s ideas and sketches and were able to make scale computer models that turned into the beautiful prints above!

    Pictured here are three representations of the I.S.S. Dorothy, showing the printed CAD model, a stylized poster, and the station design and organization.

    CAD by Alec Marchand
    Alec’s printed version, from a CAD file
    created in SketchUp
    Representating by Katie Gerawan
    The stylized representation,
    with a cool retro theme!
    Jenna Peterson and Eva Kilpper design and parameters
    The technical details (click to enlarge)
    Each group member was assigned an expertise within the group in one of the following areas:
    • Design & Appearance. Each group presents a detailed scale drawing model along with an artistic representation of their group’s space station.
    • Story. Consistent with the appearance, a short story is written to accompany the space station. This is a foray into science fiction, where both the science and the fiction are given attention.
    • Physical Parameters. After reading an article from NASA, design parameters are identified that would allow long term space travel. Each space station design has detailed calculations showing that the pseudo-gravity experienced on the space station is similar to gravity on Earth. 

    By actually making physical models for these space stations, interesting questions arose that would not have otherwise come up. How do you find the volume of these shapes? How many people could live on these space stations?

    Left to right: Isaiah, Todd (with Deadlock), Chloe

    Pictured above is a group’s final class presentation, entitled “Deadlock.” Isaiah wrote a short story consistent with physics principles and went above and beyond to illustrate the story. Todd developed the CAD representation of the space station based on the parameters that their captain, Chloe, guided the group in developing.

    Here is one group’s cover page for their short story about an exploratory vessel looking for colonizable planets.

    An advertisement for Orisa, a fictitious colonizable planet,
    by Bella


    Mr. Hurt loved seeing his students bring art, math, physics, engineering, and teamwork together for this unique project.Thanks to the Providence Engineering Academy for helping bring designs to reality!

    Middle School: A Mechanical Advantage

    The second semester of the middle school elective, Intro to Engineering, takes on a special theme each year, and is intended for 7th and 8th Graders who are repeating the class. Last year, the theme was space exploration, and the theme was matched with our first annual Science & Engineering Expo, which was a huge success.

    This year, the second semester theme is “Machines”, with a focus on the simple machine types described by Renaissance scientists. We have looked at the history of modern and pre-modern humanity in this area, wrapped around such figures as Leonardo da Vinci, Archimedes, and Vitruvius (not the LEGO wizard–sorry!). As well as the artistry and ingenuity, we’re also studying the idea of the physical concept of work, and how energy is conserved and transmitted in mechanical systems.

    One of the simple machines that was studied in antiquity was the pulley–a rope wrapped around a wheel to change the direction of force. The compound pulley is even more interesting, and allows us to dramatically increase our “mechanical advantage”. In everyday terms, this means that we can make ourselves stronger. But to talk about it is not enough: you have to prove this kind of thing outside!

    Using Mr. Gill’s outdoor education equipment and some 400 lb pulleys from Ace Hardware, the students themselves arranged the constituent pieces, hanging from the sturdy structure of the outdoor basketball hoop (not the hoop itself). On the previous day, they had worked with small model version indoors, so they knew how to set things up. It didn’t hurt to have some Boy Scouts in the group, too!

    Students working out how to set up the equipment

    With everything secure and checked, and a safety mat below, the first student was hoisted up into the air.

    Julian was our first contestant!

    Pedro gets a taste of the air up there

    Josh holds on as Pedro slam dunks!

    Our particular compound pulley system had two wheels where the hanging student was located. This means that there are four lengths of rope leading away from the load. This gives a mechanical advantage of four, which means that, aside from friction losses, the person pulling is made four times as strong! If a 100 lb student hangs from the pulley, the person pulling only feels 25 lb.

    Two wheels at top and two at bottom; the lower pulley moves up with the load,
    while the upper pulley stays in a fixed position; note Sam’s bowline knot!

    Other notable moments possibly occurred as well…

    Chloe representing for the girls!

    Tommy and Julian being lifted together at once

    Mr. Meadth showing a great deal of trust in Sam

    Success!

    Payback time for Chloe and Belen

    More news coming up later this semester, and keep an eye out for this semester’s Science & Engineering Expo in April!