Friday, June 28, 2013

Hydraulic Syringe Arm Most Popular Currently

Mousetrap car articles on my website have almost always been the most popular by far until recently when the Syringe Hydraulic Arm became more popular by almost double the number of views. My Simple Electric Motor article is also more popular currently. Everything changes when school dismisses for the summer but normally everything is less active equally.

Syringe Hydraulic Arm

In almost panic mode I have been busy getting ready for College for Kids class I teach in a couple of weeks. At the start it looked like enrollment would be down and at the last minute it exceeded what is normally allowed for class size.  This summer I am introducing the Syringe Hydraulic Arm for the first time and I am busy making up kits for this.  There are many more parts than it would appear from looking at a completed prototype.

Some of the parts in the kit.

Part of the reason there is so much work for me to get ready for the class is I cut and drill eveything because the only tools available for the students to use are what I bring. This consists of hot glue gun, scissors, ruler, and a screwdriver.

Tube Straps

Tube Straps Hold Cylinder

One of the ideas I had for the syringe arm design is to use the copper-plated tube straps to hold the cylinders to the frame of the arm. The right-angle bend is straightened in the straps but holes are already in the straps for bolts to go through. For the kits I also have used a large wood screw through the base up into the vertical part of the arm, this should be stronger than a hot glue joint.

After the students build this project I will have to create another post about how well the project went for them.

Bill Kuhl

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Commercial Fishing by Winona with Bud Ramer

I ran across an old webpage I had created from a time when Bud Ramer had taken me along to pull up hoop nets in his commercial fishing operation.

Commercial Fishing on the Mississippi River

With the

Ramer Fish Company
Dragging the bottom to find the rope on the net, a marker makes finding the rope fairly easy.

Heavy weight with hooks used to snag the rope on the hoop net. Nets are fastened to bottom and trail with the current.

Fish are very much alive when the nets are raised.

Bud's employee pulls up net. Hoop net allows fish to swim in, but they can not swim out.

Certain times of the year the catch is almost exclusively catfish.
Only catfish of a certain length range maybe kept.

Electric pump keeps oxygen in the tank.
Some of the smaller catfish.
Larger catfish appeared to be more common.
Another heavy load of catfish.

Peaceful backwater area looks like a large stream.

Threading a large flat-bottom boat through fallen timber is not always easy.

Through the Tough Spot.

Nice view of shoreline.

Hung-up on the sand in shallow area, Bud gets through.

Sand piles up in backwater.

Time to push with a strong pole.

Boathouses along Latsch Island.

Close-up of the wagon bridge that is being refurbished

DNR Article about Bud Ramer   I like this quote: "Ramer attributes his good fortune to salesmanship and a constant search for new markets. "Any idiot can go out and catch a boatload of fish," Ramer says. "The real trick is finding someone who'll pay for them."
WDN Article from the Day of His Funeral

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My First Max Conrad Webpage

I just happened to run across the first webpage I had created on local Winona aviation legend Max Conrad. After this I had created a website residing at which now belongs to his family.  A couple of weeks ago I received a call from a writer who had interviewed me for a story about Max and the Armistice Day Blizzard.

Update: Blog Post About Max Conrad's Music

Who Was Max Conrad?

Max Conrad was one of the greatest small plane pilots ever. He was a shy, soft-spoken man with an irresistible warm grin. In later years he was often known as the "Flying Grandfather". Along with many astounding accomplishments, Max suffered many personal tragedies including almost dying early in his aviation career.

Born in Winona Minnesota in 1903. Max left and returned to Winona many times through out his life.

Major Accomplishments

  • 50, 000 hours in the air, the equivalent to about six years
  • Nearly 200 solo flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
  • First light plane flight New York to Paris since Lindbergh in 1954.
  • Set a world's high jump record of 6 feet 8 1/2 inches in 1931 at the age of 29.
  • Taught more than 3000 people to fly
  • Trained 44 airline captains - more than 350 Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine pilots and 56 licensed mechanics
  • Saved a number of lives in the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard
  • Wrote book describing his Atlantic crossings, "Green Water"
  • Broke almost every record possible in a light plane including around the world in eight days.

    Max Conrad Recognition Day August 30, 1961 -Between 12,000 to 15,000 people attended.

The late John F. Kennedy said to Max while president in a telegram:

"I'm happy to learn of the dedication of Max Conrad Field in Winona, Minnesota. Your numerous long range flight records in small aircraft are a tribute to your courage and professional ability. You have helped to prepare young people for the complex and serious responsibilities in the aerospace age. In addition, your work and example have brought good will to many parts of the world".

Ford Tri-Motor purchased with money borrowed from 30 Winona businessmen. Max planned to increase his passenger load on flights to California but instead used it for charter, stunting at fairs, dropping parachuters, and multi-engine pilot training. The plane was destroyed when one of the engines caught fire on the ground.

Picture #4

Picture #5

Winona's first airport grew to a complex that included classrooms, offices, a shop, restaurant, living quarters for students, as well as housing over thirty aircraft. Burned to the ground winter of 1942 when gasoline was spilled and frozen hangar doors could not be opened. Max saved the man who had spilled the gasoline and caught on fire by smothering the flames with his own body and then pulling off the man's coveralls.

Picture #6 Winona Experiment

The Winona Experiment was an attempt to rekindle an interest in aviation in young people. Max wanted to conduct the experiment in Winona although others did not consider Winona the best choice. Over a period of 13 weeks, boys and girls were to construct a full-size aircraft under Max's supervision. Material was donated by manufacturers and the Winona city council have approved rent-free space at the municipal airport. The program was to serve as a model for a nationwide program, still Max could not afford to keep the program going without a steady income.

Picture #7 - 1966 Aztec C, fuel capacity was 476 gallons with the addition of cabin and wing tip tanks. The plane was named "St. Louis Woman" after his daughter Jana Kosko, who lived in St. Louis at the time.

Max with his trademark Mickey Mouse doll. Max would talk to the doll on long flights.

Armistice Day Storm

November 11, 1940 started out as a beautiful day with temperatures near 60 degrees but by the next morning temperatures were below zero and 26 inches of snow had fallen. Almost 60 people died around Winona and the surrounding areas.

Max took out the Piper Cub because it was the easiest to take out of the hangar.

He flew over the backwaters of the Mississippi spotting a boy he knew standing in frozen water, and soon spotted more people. Max wanted to land but knew the wind would flip the plane so he returned to the airport. Knowing the risks of flying in such weather, Max could not leave those men stranded without trying to help. He flew the rest of the day and part of the next, guiding rescue boats, throwing out supplies, and guiding hunters to rescue boats.

Hit By a Propeller

Most airplane engines of the time did not have electric starters and were hard to start once stopped. Common practice was to keep the engine running while passengers were loading and unloading.

Max and one of his students, Bob Rumick were flying to Minneapolis but landed in Frontenac where Bob's aunt owned a hotel. After lunch they were persuaded to give rides, the last ride was to Bob's cousin and her friend. Bob's cousin jumped to the ground towards the spinning prop and Max tried to save her. Max was hit by the tip of the propeller in the head.

Doctors at the hospital in Red Wing called his parents and told them he was dying. Max's mother called her brother-in-law an attending physician at the Mayo Clinic and begged him to find a neurosurgen who could come and look at Max. After five days, Max awoke from a coma.

Soaring Above Winona, Worries Some Residents

One of Max's students tells the story of how he spotted a large thundercloud over the airport in Winona, found the associated thermal updraft and flew around with the engine turned off. People thought Max was in trouble, and called the police. Meanwhile Max flew the plane to a field several miles and did a dead-stick landing. He again started the engine and flew back to Winona.

Making Record Setting Flights

Preparing the Plane

Remove everything not absolutely needed: floorboards, soundproofing, upholestery, seats, and even normal engine components.

Reduce drag; door handles, latches, antennas, even the flaps!

The plane was basically a flying gas tank

From the "Standard Catalog of Piper Twin Engine Aircraft 1954 - 1993" by Jim Cavaugh

1966 Aztec C Specs

Useable fuel 144 gallons
Wingspan 37' - Average empty Weight 2933 pounds - Average Useful Load 2267 pounds - Top Speed 216 mph - Max Cruise 210 mph
Range 1055 miles - Endurance 5.9 hours

2 - 250 hp Lycoming engines

Max Conrad is mentioned on Page 39 of this book

"In early 1961, Max Conrad set an international speed record when he flew a Piper Aztec
around the world in less than nine days, at an average speed of 123.2 mph.

Preparing the Man for a Severe Test of Endurance

Beginning with his charter flights to California, Max trained himself to stay awake for long periods of time. He found if at the end of the long flight he alternated between a little rest, a light meal, some exercise, and more rest; he was ready to go again within a day. If instead, he ate heavy after a long flight, it prolonged recovery or even caused sickness. He also prepared for a long flight by losing one night's sleep a week for a month before a long flight.

Max was awake for as much as 60 hours at a time while flying. My thoughts are, how can a
human go that long without sleep? In doing some research, I found that people have forced themselves to stay awake for considerably longer than 60 hours

Side Effects of Long Periods of No Sleep

decreased judgment ability and decision making, reduced short-term memory capacity
People report hallucinating and having trouble speaking.

Major disasters such as nuclear accidents of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and the spill of the Exxon Valdez could possibly be due to lack of sleep.

The record appears to be 264 hours or about 11 days without sleep.

Max's New York to Paris

23 hours and 23 minutes in Piper Apache twin engine 150 hp - 150 mph cruise, long range
total weight 4900 pounds, roughly 3700 miles overloaded plane by 1500 pounds

Lindbergh Spirit of St. Louis 46 foot wingspan 2500 pounds of fuel total weight 5135 pounds

Weight savings - no radio to save 90 pounds, no fuel guage - heavy and inaccurate, used a watch and the tachometer Lindbergh was a stickler for detail in the construction of Spirit of St. Louis 33 hour flight


"In 1926 Clifford B. Harmon, a wealthy sportsman and aviator, established three international trophies to be awarded annually to the world's outstanding aviator, aviatrix, and aeronaut. A fourth trophy was later created to honor achievements in space flight. The Harmon Trophy--the aviator's award--is given for the most outstanding international achievements in the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration. The Smithsonian Institution acquired the aviator's trophy in 1950 from the Clifford B. Harmon Trust."

Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, Wiley Post,

Max Conrad Timeline

1903 - Born in Winona Minnesota

1921 - Marquette University

1922 – University of Colorado

1923 – Detroit Michigan, worked at Cadillac and Plymouth factories

1924 University of California at Berkley

1925 University of Minnesota Engineering School

1928 – first solo flight Chicago flying lessons – WDN article “learned to fly in Denver”

Wichita Kansas to pick up airplane

1928 – back to Winona

First week in Winona had first crash landing due to engine failure and stalled landing Student pilot crashed plane with Max in it by hitting a haystack, Max was hurt

1929 – Max is hit by propeller, almost dies

1930 – flies to California to recuperate

1931 – set world’s high jump record of 6 feet 8 ½ inches

1931 – Marries Betty Biesanz

1931 – Brother Art dies in plane crash

1937 – buys Ford Tri-Motor, it later burns up in a fire

1940 – Armistice Day rescue

1943 – hangar burns, Max rescues man

1943 – left Winona to be a bush pilot and then pilot for Minneapolis Honeywell Company

1948 – family moves to Switzerland

1951 – Returns to Winona, starts the Winona Experiment

1951 – Non-stop between Los Angeles and New York, first person in light-plane

1953 – Flew to 48 states

1954 – New York to Paris in 22 hours in a light-plane,

1955 – Starts ferrying airplanes across the Atlantic

1958 – named “Pilot of the Year” by the National Pilots Association

1959 – Start of his record setting

1961 – Winona held “Max Conrad Recognition Day”. Name Winona Municipal Airport was changed to Max Conrad Field

1961 – Flew around the world in eight days, breaking the previous light-plane record by three weeks.

1964 – Dissolves Conrad Aviation in Lock Haven, headquarters for ferrying operation

1964 – Moves to Prescott Arizona

1965 – non-stop flight between Capetown, South Africa and St. Petersburg Florida, 7878 miles in 55 hours.

1979 - Died at age 76

Monday, June 24, 2013

My Frustration with Itunes

The iPod is such an amazing device in many ways and a marvel of engineering for the power in such a tiny package. I use mine almost exclusively to listen to podcasts normally when I am walking. Recently I purchased my third iPod which was in the $150 range, previously I had the under $50 version with no screen.  Through many versions of the iTunes software I have always been frustrated that it was not easier to use. Last week I came out of the closet on this and I found other people felt the same way.

Only Day of Week Listed on These Podcasts
Subscribe Choice but no Unsubscribe


For me when I bring up iTunes it seems to start at a random screen, maybe the same as the last session but not always. Navigating between screens sure could be easier.  Deleting individual podcasts or trying to unsubscribe from a podcast seems to be not clear and at times it just will not work.  It appears to update a podcast you need to connect through the iTunes store but it would appear you could see all podcasts without doing that. I wish each screen was labeled with a name, at least I could describe better what I am talking about.

Even Though Subscribed, Appears Need to Connect Through ITunes Store to Update

Maybe if I was younger this would all be intuitive but it puzzles me that this technology put so many music stores out of business.  I work with computers everyday and I am familiar with so many menu structures through so many programs but this just seems to be lacking in good user interface design.

  Bill Kuhl

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Competition Altimeter for Models - CAM

To me modern electronics is both amazing and sometimes frustrating, this unit has worked well for me. The Competition Altimeter for Models unit is a rather amazing tiny package of electronics for an electric powered sailplane weighing only 7 grams.  At a model sailplane contest last Saturday I was given one of the units to use in my Radian Pro electric sailplane.  The function of this tiny unit is to limit the height that an electric model airplane will climb to during the power phase after launch. In this way electric sailplanes can compete with sailplanes launched by other means such as an electric winch.

CAM Unit Wrapped in Pink Foam

Someone helped me set this up but it did not look too difficult, no computer is needed to program it. The unit can be set to cut the electric motor at 100, 150, or 200 meters high or 30 seconds, whatever occurs first. For the local contests we decided to use the 150 meter height cutoff which gets the sailplane to a good height without becoming too tiny to see in the sky.  After the motor cuts, it is possible to start it again before landing.

Radian Pro Electric Sailplane

For me I find it fun to practice with this unit as I know all the flights are starting at the same altitude. Last evening I was climbing in thermal lift with my Radian Pro up to almost 7:00 p.m. in the evening. Without the unit I was climbing to lower altitudes and using power on more times just to stay up instead getting to stronger thermal lift.

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rocketmodeler II - NASA Website

NASA provides some amazing resources for science education online. More than just providing information there are interactive simulator programs such as RocketModeler II Simulator.  I am just starting to work with this program and find it slightly frustrating at times, maybe it is just me. From what I have seen all parameters have to be in range or you cannot attempt to got through the launch simulation. This makes sense except it does not let you know what you are doing wrong.

Something Wrong With Design When I Clicked on Pad

All Green Gives Fire Button

There are three major areas that need to be correct to be able to launch; Design - Fuel - Pad. When you have adjusted the parameters, then you press the Go button and proceed to the next area. You can get through a couple of areas and then in the third area it will warn you that the first area was incorrect. Sometimes I would have everything green and ready to launch but the rocket would just fallover, the tube inside of the rocket was too short.

Rocket Fell Over on Launch

When you do get the rocket to launch it is so interesting to see the graphics and data change. At beginning of the launch you will see the thrust numbers adding up. When the water has been expelled this number will go to zero and the rocket is coasting. You can see the speed changing and the path changing as you experiment with the wind speed.

Thrust Number Visible to Start Launch

Thrust Zero as Rocket Coasts

Rocket Coming Down

I sure would like to hear any tips that people have for running this program.

Bill Kuhl

For an explanation of many aspects of simple aerodynamics with math problems check out my article Basic Aerodynamics With a Lesson

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big Foam Glider Makes Headlines

Yesterday I noticed on the MSN homepage was a video clip of one the big foam gliders launched too hard causing a loop which ended by hitting the person launching it in the face. The gliders are lightweight and fly rather slow so he was not injured and everyone thought it was funny.

Link to "model airplane test flight fail"

Glider Launched by Towline Method

Through basic aerodynamics we know that in the Lift Equation velocity is squared. This means the lift is going to increase by a large amount with a fast throw causing a loop. Many people have put electric motors and radio control in these gliders but I thought maybe it could be launched as a "towline" glider with no control. Towline gliders are launched much like a kite flies but the line detaches at the top of a launch. I really went the quick and dirty route on this making the towhook from a paperclip glued to a craft stick.

Rails for Launching

There almost needs to be another person holding the glider as it is launched except I came up with launching rails made from two dowels pushed in the ground. This worked pretty good and I could launch the plane by myself using kite string and a kite reel to pull it with. It never got real high for me but the glide was slow.  This is the article I created about what I had done.  Big Foam Towline Glider

Kite Reel Pulls Glider Up

There is a short video segment of the glider flying in my video Fun With Foam Gliders.

Bill Kuhl

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Schools Out - Summer Slump

Views to a science / project website such as mine pretty much follow the school year. No doubt there will be some interest from summer camp programs but the major interest to is from schools and student assignments for school. This past school year brought many views to my website, normally over 500 unique views a day. The Hydraulic Syringe Arm and the foam gliders have been popular new additions this year.

Working on the Math & Physics for Future

Summer is the busiest time for me as that is when I teach for summer camp programs which are the testing opportunities for the projects on the website. Each year I try to tweak the kits I make up for students a little bit more so that I do not need to spend so much time helping students.

Summer Camp Water Rockets

Building Model Solar Cars

This summer I am also thinking of how I will improve the website for the next school year. The direction I plan to head is to add more educational content such as the math and physics that would go along with the projects. Currently my emphasis has been to just present how to build the projects and how to operate. At some point I would like to see some revenue from my website which has been entirely an expense endeavor. If I go the advertising route I sure do not want it to detract too much from the website.

Bill Kuhl