Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blog Post #100 - the Mice are Back

Actually it is the interest in mousetrap cars has quickly rebounded as school resumes in the United States. I am happy about this but also like to see some of my other projects share the spotlight which is what happened this summer.  While at STEM Day at the Minnesota State Fair last week I overheard several parents tell there kids we should build this at home. I wish there was more of that going on as it seems that 80% of the views to my website comes from school activity.

Mousetrap Car Article Views Jumped to Almost 300 Yesterday

Blogger is showing me that this my 100th blog post with views approaching the 15,000 mark in a few months, I feel that is pretty good. Now that the blog is underway I think cutting back to maybe two posts a week would be appropriate. It rather amazes me that I find so much to write about and I realize why I am so busy.

My Mousetrap Car Built in India

This past summer the views to the website have been kept alive partly to the views to new cyber-friends from India. They are going to school for part of what is summer in the United States. It saddens me that India is so far away that I do not get to meet people there in person.

Thank you to everyone that has been reading this blog, it inspires me to come up with new stories.

Bill Kuhl

Related Blog Posts

The Evolution of My Mousetrap Car Design

Alden Balmer - Doc Fizzix

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Booth at STEM Day at MN State Fair

Getting an opportunity to display the projects that appear on my Science Guy website is always a thrill for me no matter how small the venue.  Having the opportunity to display at STEM Day at the Minnesota State Fair has had me wild with anticipation for months; just think over 100,000 people came to the fair on that first day.  In reality like every show only a fraction of the people will stop by my booth but enough interested people did come by that I was busy talking most of the time. What I enjoy most however is listening to the people talk and to their questions about what I have on my table for display.

The big hit of my projects and the most interactive was the Syringe Hydraulic Arm, kids and many adults had so much fun manipulating the arm with the syringes.  I would overhear a father tell his son something about this is how the lift on the tractor works.  Actually that is probably the most rewarding thing I see is parents relating something about my projects to their children and shared experiences. For example looking at my model wind turbine and talking about the giant wind turbines they see on the way to the grandparents along the highway. Next biggest thrill is when I see people taking cellphone pictures of one of my projects to capture a certain idea.

Syringe Hydraulic Arm

It appeared that many of the parents with kids were looking for ideas for future projects in school science fairs.  Several people asked me if I go out into the schools for presentations, I have done some of that in local schools but living in Winona it would be a long trip for a 40 minute presentation.

One table had almost all foam model airplanes both gliders and rubber powered. This has been my latest website article and an activity that I think offers a lot of benefits for the cost.  Several people I talked to have also had the experience that balsa wood model planes are too fragile for many kids, foam appears to hold up better.

Thanks to all the people, organizations, and companies that made STEM at the Minnesota State Fair possible.

Bill Kuhl


Sunday, August 25, 2013

STEM Day at Minnesota State Fair - What I Learned

I had the wonderful opportunity to display my science projects at the Minnesota State Fair for STEM Day this year in the afternoon. This gave me some time in the morning to observe what many of the other participants were doing. It gave me so many ideas to try at another venue sometime in the future. There are so many more ideas than those I will describe here but the following are somewhat related to what I am doing.


Several of the booths were doing aviation related activities. The Childrens Museum of Duluth had two really cool paper plane launchers that looked like a mini runway. I have seen where similar launchers can be purchased but these were custom made and really shot the paper plane very fast every time.

At another booth had you build a glider that consisted of two paper circles joined by a plastic straw. The person that had me build the glider did such a good job of making me think about how it might work while testing and asking what I knew of simple aerodynamics. With the glider completed then the object was to throw it through a Hula Hoop, not so easy.

Kids were building gliders from straws and card stock at another booth also. They had other cool activities going on also.

Then there was the Flying Gizmo Airshow which I was able to watch the first part of but then had to get my booth ready. The gentleman doing the show did such a wonderful job of getting audience participation by asking questions and bringing kids on the stage to fly the gizmo's. He started out asking what was the very first thing to fly? It was insects and he used the radio controlled dragonfly to demonstrate this, I had used the same dragonfly in my Pioneers of Aviation Demonstration. The young lady that had a chance to fly it had the dragon fly almost hit me sitting in the crowd. Luckily I got a video clip of that. For the next part of the demonstration an ornithopter that looks like a bird was used, I might have to buy one of those.

Not related to flight was a device to test how steady you could move a wand with a loop at the end over copper tubing that had bends in it. This was not easy and when you touched the tubing a light would come on. If I build something like this I might use a buzzer instead of a light.

It really was a great day and I will share some thoughts I had about my booth in another blog post. There was another neat trick where you would try to float a paperclip on a glass of water, I need to check that out too.

Blog Post on Ornithopters

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Spatial Test - Spatial Ability

After a previous blog post Spatial Ability and Building Models I really wanted to get more feedback from the model aviation community on the content of that article. Posting on two free flight model aviation forums generated more discussion than I would have imagined. In about a week there were over 400 views and many comments on Hip Pocket Aeronautics Builder's Forum.  Discussion was a little slow to get started on the Free Flight Mailing List but then Tim Goldstein owner of A2Z Corp a great source for model aviation supplies gave a challenge of a test and to publish your score.

The explanation of the test found on the website is as follows:
"This is for a university psych project. We are trying out this new form of spatial ability test. It is much harder than most tests, and the mean score from our testing so far has been 3.64/9. Your participation is helping us get more reliable data for these items and is very much appreciated."

The model airplane builders would appear from the scores submitted to be must more proficient in spatial ability than the average person with scores of at least 6 and some at a perfect 9.  Gary Hinze that had a top score made this comment about the connection he saw between model aviation and spatial ability:

"What does this have to do with model airplanes?  Relational skills, problem solving skills, spacial imagination, reading drawings, all involve skills used by modelers.  Some of the skills relate primarily to geometric figures, some generalize to other kinds of activities.  Some modeling skills may have nothing to do with the skills exhibited by this test."
Bill Kuhl

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Approach to using Estes Alti Trak

In doing experiments sometimes a helper is really needed but I often try to figure out ways to do everything myself.  I have been experimenting with determining the maximum height of a water rocket launch and progressed from the protractor method to using the Estes Alti Trak device which I had mentioned in previous post.

Trying to use the Alti Trak by myself I was limited by the 25 feet of string on my PITSCO Aquaport launcher which gave angle readings approaching 90 degrees when you are so close to the launch. My solution was to attach kite string to the Aquaport string so that I could get 100 feet away on launch. This time I recorded my air pressure level also and always pumped to 80 psi, my altitude readings from the prior launches might have been done at 100 psi. Altitude calculations were significantly lower this time at around 200 feet as opposed to 377 feet on the previous outing.

Estes Alti Trak

Kite String Extends Launch String to 100 Feet

Trying to think like a scientist I try to identify all of the variables.  First there was the issue of launching too close the first time and the inaccuracy of getting an accurate angle reading for the top of the launch when it was close to 90 degrees. Then there was the launch pressure difference it could be that launching at 100 psi could give significantly more altitude, I plan to always record the pressure in the future. The amount of water I used in the rocket could differ also. Another factor could have been that one fin of the rocket was loose causing extra drag, I noticed this later and switched to a different rocket.

Pumping to 80 psi

Even if there are many possibilities for inaccuracies in this method of measuring maximum altitude I think it is a good learning exercise. First it is a basic introduction to a practical application in trigonometry using the tangent function. It gives the student a good exercise in recording data and thinking about variables. It would be fun to launch different rocket designs and compare the maximum altitudes.

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Spatial Ability and Building Models

After the recent model airplane classes and the College for Kids class before that I have been thinking a lot about why kids have such a hard time looking at an example completed model airplane or other project and visualizing how the parts go together.  To me it seems so obvious but then I have been working with these types of problems for a long time.  For example the stabilizer of the model airplane has the curved shape to the front and is straight in the back.  The vertical fin has the same arrangement but goes vertical from the stabilizer in the center at 90 degrees. It seems so simple after looking at a sample but always there will be some kids that try to attach the vertical fin in some other manner.
She did well assembling this model airplane from foam parts but many kids really struggle with such tasks.
 I started following the articles of Annie Murphy Paul on learning and brain research and found the article on spatial ability rather interesting.  This quote in particular: “The ability to mentally manipulate shapes and otherwise understand how the three-dimensional world works turns out to be an important predictor of creative and scholarly achievements, according to research published this month in the journal Psychological Science.”  Also interesting is that these skills can be improved on “spatial skills are malleable, durable and transferable”: that is, spatial skills can be improved by training; these improvements persist over time; and they “transfer” to tasks that are different from the tasks used in the training.”

Business Insider did a similar article : http://www.businessinsider.com/spatial-ability-predicts-future-success-2013-7 . This article includes some example problems.

What is my point, it looks to me that building projects like those on my website is a really good activity for kids to build their intelligence.
Bill Kuhl

Monday, August 12, 2013

Planes Movie Inspired Postal Design Contest

There has been a lot of buzz lately on the Free Flight Mailing List about the new animated movie "Planes".  Earlier this summer Dave Gee known as "Stuka Dave" by the model airplane community had shared a video of a free flight rubber powered model he had designed and built of the star of the movie "Dusty Crophopper".  Dave lives in the LA area and seems to have an inside on things Hollywood.

Planes Display in Target Store

Just last week Stuka Dave announced that someone will be handling a postal model airplane contest for rubber powered free flight model planes that have a likeness to airplanes in the movie Planes. In a postal contest you can build and fly your model airplane anywhere and record flight times. It was asked for this contest that a Youtube video be created also. I plan to build a plane for the event, sure sounds like fun.

The Rules

The Utterly Unauthorized “Little Wings Around the Globe“  Planes Movie Postal Cookup Contest!

24 hour comment period for these proposed rules.  Once the movie is released, the rules are fixed (unlike the contest).

1.        This cookup/contest is for characters from the animated movie “Planes”.  Any aircraft depicted in the movie is eligible, even if it did not have a speaking role. 

2.       Models must be rubber-powered free flight, any material and construction type.  Full-fuselage, “Dick Baxter style” box, or profile are all acceptable.  Gear may be depicted as retracted, since  ROG is not required.  Nominal wingspan is 16 inches, but contestants may opt for larger or smaller models at their discretion.  DTs are allowed, but trickery, gadgetry, and perfidy are not.

3.       Models must be recognizable and representative of the prototype.  No scale judging,  but excessively altered airframe proportions are not allowed.

4.   Your best two flights count as your score.  Official flights may be made indoors or outside. Unlimited attempts are allowed. 

5.       At least one of the two “score” flights must be shown on video, preferably uploaded to YouTube for the enjoyment of all. 

6.       To provide plausible deniability in case the lawyers come around, Llewellyn Parchinski will serve as contest director from a secret undisclosed location.

7.       Contest will run 90 days from the movie release on August 9, 2013.  Mr. Parchinski will provide suitable prizes, based on the number and quality of entries.  Official entry and inquiry contact is MyBigMoai@gmail.com.

8.       Advance registration is requested but not required.  Pilot’s name, aircraft choice, and a picture or two of construction and/or finished model should be sent to the above email address.  A forwarded YouTube link showing a flight will move pilots from Entrant to Contestant status.  All messages will be forwarded to the secret contest headquarters location. 

Editorial notes:

1.  These are the final rules.  24 hour comment period expired a long time ago.

2.  Play games with these rules at your own risk.  Decisions by the CD are final.


Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

AR Drone Drowns in Lake Winona

I was just getting a little confidence in flying my AR Drone quadcopter, recently switched to the outdoor hull because it had not crashed into anything for a long time. Last night I tried to fly my AR Drone by the small lake  a few blocks from my house, I had flown it there the night before with no trouble. Normally I take it off the road and then fly it over the open field. Last night it took off and headed for a tree, kept trying to give it up  control to get over tree. Just managed to clear the tree but then it headed for the lake, nothing would work in the controls and it flew out over the water a long ways and landed. Luckily there is enough foam and it floats. So I went home and threw my kayak on top of my pickup and went back for a late evening kayak trip.  It was still floating in the lake  as I paddled towards it but much was submerged.  I put it in the kayak and pulled the battery connection as fast as I could to stop the hissing sound.  Dumped the water out the best I could. 

No not Lochness Monster but Shell of AR Drone Floating in Lake Winona

Back at home took it apart and blew it out. So far it doesn't work but the red lights come on by the motors.  Crossing my fingers when it completely dries it might work, radio control equipment has done that before for me that was underwater. This morning it still was not working so I am afraid it has had it's Viking Funeral.

Trying to Dry Out AR Drone
I will check into getting the AR Drone repaired. It is amazing technology but it has faults for sure. Trying to fly a device that has its' own intelligence but you control it also does have downfalls. The video and especially still pictures were never all that clear either.  Hopefully the next generation of AR Drone will be better yet, mine was 2.0.

Flying by Lake the Night Before

Final Resting Place for AR Drone

Bill Kuhl