Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seeing the end


This is the second-to-last week of the RET I program, and as cliche as it sounds, it really has gone fast. As we plan our tasks, we have to take into account that next week will need to be mostly spent working on a final PowerPoint presentation, rather than furiously finishing lab work. That said, today was a great day in terms of inspiration.

We came to the conclusion that the scale of the car was not likely to change. This was a nice mental place to get to, because then we just went about refining our current cars. Trying to stay within the 0.25-0.30 g range, we carefully carved, sanded and sculpted our styrofoam blocks into a few designs that we hope will be more balanced and consistent that some earlier models. During the initial tests, they moved through the track well.

The general design is a solid body, with a channel carved into the bottom of the car. The five pellets are placed in the channel and then taped in place. The structure is then placed in a bath of liquid nitrogen until it cools below the critical temperature (takes about 30 seconds the first time, then about 10 seconds for subsequent coolings). Most surprising about this design is the strength of the tape. It withstands multiple dips into the liquid nitrogen, AND insulates well. We are getting about a minute of levitation time with the styrofoam and tape construction.

Here are some pictures of where we currently are in terms of construction.

Videography quality poor (a little shaky)-- Watch on an empty stomach.

Ram had been gone for the past two weeks and had not seen our progress. Toward the end of the day, we showed him the track and movement, and he seemed to be really happy with the results. I think he is planning to order more magnets, which will be nice because the track will be longer, and more interesting. It will look pretty neat if we can get an entire oval, but that may be too many magnets. I'm excited to see how this will turn out.

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