Friday, January 18, 2013

The Robot Dragster Project - Chapter Five

Early on we had a discussion about brakes.  Although the primary job of a dragster is to accelerate quickly, there is the practical matter of stopping it in a fashion that allows for more than one run.

One of the motor options we looked at had electromagnetic brakes.  Past tense, I had removed them for another project.  We could have put them back on, but that motor did not get selected.

Brainstorming braking ideas the kids came up with:

Parachute, like real dragsters.
Tail hook, like jets use landing on carriers.
Ending the test course on a hill.

And of course

The "Jumpin' General Lee" option does have some appeal, but maybe we will save that for a future robotics project.

I think we can just have a long straight test course and power down the drive at about 200 feet out.

A revealing work session.  A couple of the kids were finalists in the school geography contest. Some of the others wanted to go and cheer them on.  So I said those that wanted to should go and come back in five minutes.  Two kids stayed.

The kids who left did not come back for fifteen minutes.  The two kids who stayed buckled down and put together what looks like a workable steering system using a satellite dish linear actuator.

When the other kids wandered back things bogged down right away.  We are falling farther and farther behind and may have to concentrate on just one machine.  Even then it may not run properly.

It is really not the fault of the kids I guess.  Each year with the advanced class I try and push the limits.  How many kids can we sneak into the class?  How complex a project can we take on?  It may simply be that I have found the outer limits of what is possible....and gone beyond them.

Here is progress to date.  Sloppy work much in evidence.  Hand tools, especially in inexpert hands....

Four more sessions.  There is at least the sole consolation that this is not a class that ends in a major event as does the combat robot class.  If it does not work, well, things have been learned along the way.

Sometimes failed projects teach us the most!

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