May 3, 2008

Classes may be over, but we're still going strong

The warm weather is here, with the scent of release agent wafting through the High Bay and the sound of grease-stained hands being pumiced cleaned with fast-orange. Blood, sweat, and tears gush over motor mount setups, bondo applications, and broken solar cells, respectively. Even though it has been a long, hard task for our team to get here so far, we are finally seeing the fruition of our efforts. With only a few weeks left before competition, we still have work to do.

This aside, we can also take the time to look back on where we are now and, more importantly, where we have come from.

As of 5/3/2008, this is the way I see the state of things:


We started this year with our foam filled and competition tested 'Nessie'. In comparison with last year, at least at face value, it may appear that not much has changed. This is, however, far from the case. This year we have seen our beloved Nessie evolve into a lighter, faster, better configured, and more presentable version of its former self.

Nessie has now been "defoamed" if you will, with the help of some fiber-glassed bulkheads:

And now is outfitted with some very stylish, modular electrical boxes and covers:

These not only help us better organize our electronics, but also help with our boats overall visual appeal. Plus they have these really cool hinges for easy access!

Andrew Choate also took it upon himself to manufacture a great new pulley for the steering assembly:

Overall, the Hull group has not only made Nessie the sleek beast she is today, but have also gained valuable knowledge and skills that will no doubt be transferred to next year's design. Be on the look out for more updates on Nessie's transformation in the coming weeks.

Power Management:

Given the diversity of tasks that fall under the umbrella of "Power Management", I am continually impressed by the adaptability and determination of this group of people. We've gained some great new members this year and they have really done a great job with what everyone has asked of them. Substantial strides have been taken into understanding solar panel design, sensor and telemetry development, as well as understanding the inner workings of our motor controllers and charge controllers.

The group has been experimenting with the physical processes needed to construct our own solar panels. First by practicing on some broken cells:

But quickly shifting to full scale cells:

While we won't be using these cells during competition this year, they will feature prominently in our visual display, and are a great starting point for future development next year. It's great to see the increased level of interest in our solar panels (something that we all too often take for granted).

On the telemetry front we have made fantastic progress. Thanks to a great level of involvement and interest from our newer members, we now have the RPM and Current Sensors up and running. They still need some tweaking, but will be ready to be used in the competition.

With the Sprint mount up and running, the Power Management group has also had the chance to observe and modify the functionality of the motor controllers. A new throttle design with dual-potentiometers has improved the reliability and consistency of the drive train. Unfortunately, Carnegie Mellon is still in Pittsburgh, which means that we're still waiting for a sunny day to test the charge controller. No worries though, we'll keep you all updated with what happens when it does!

Overall, the Power Management has come a long way even over the span of this semester, let alone the year. This year has seen a number of very talented and determined people get more involved with our project, and I am continually impressed by their work.


I love (and fear) this part of the year in the Propulsion group. For months and months we've been designing, tweaking, adjusting, and manufacturing our new endurance motor mount. All of this under the assumption that one day...we would have the completed system ready and working. That all of our hard work will one day pay day....

Ladies and gentlemen, today is that day.

Now, fully assembled and ready to go, our new endurance mount sits ready and waiting in the back of the High Bay:

Mounted with our new Ampflow motor, "new" (1950's) Johnson lower unit, and a new gear-based design, this lighter, more compact mount will serve as the workhorse for our endurance heat:

New to this year's design is a new support for the lower unit, which allows us to reduce stress on the mount by supporting the lower unit much closer to the propeller itself:

We retained our quick-disconnect style bushings in order to enable easy swapping of our new sprockets. The chain based drive train is a new foray into technologies that our group is unfamiliar with, but it should be a good learning experience for us:

We also got the opportunity today to test out our new "system swap" maneuver, as I'm starting to call it. Now that we have two separate mounts, we have the ability to dismount and mount each of the systems in record time. Today we removed the Sprint mount and attached the Endurance mount in around 5-10 minutes, while only inserting two bolts. This will save us a great deal of time during competition, and will also reduce the possibility of assembly error.

While work still exists before we can call ourselves "ready" in the propulsion group, I can't help but look back to where we were at the beginning of the year and marvel at how far we have come.

Looking Forward:

This post, rather than to falsely profess our "readiness", is instead designed to provide our faithful readers with a sense of perspective. The whole team still has a lot to do, no doubt. Despite this, we have come a long way thus far this year.
This progress has not been a function of luck or resources or time.
This progress is due solely to the sacrifices that our members have made to this project.

At the end of the day, I measure this project and our progress, by the people who choose to give so much to it. Whether they are graduating seniors or second semester freshmen, everyone on this team has really raised the bar and has continually gave it their all. During the hectic next couple of days with finals and Meeting of the Minds fast approaching, it remains of utmost importance to remember where we are, where we have been, and where we can still go.

In a way, this post really isn't for our readers at all, but rather for the team of people who continue to make this team great.

Stay tuned!

- Mark Fuge

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