Advancing Business Through Technology. Bored Engineers. And “Like Trying To Catch A Blender!”

FSAEBlogDSC_4225So said one member of S&T’s Formula SAE Team when it was time to recover the “flying menu.” But if that was the scariest thing at Saturday’s S&T Autocross Invitational, then it was a pretty good day.

Purdue, Wichita State, Toledo, Mizzou, the Illini and Missouri S&T spent the day running timed laps, gathering data, and entertaining cyclists along the Katy Trail. It’s the annual gathering of the more serious regional collegiate racing design teams, when teams gather to tweak and test cars, train new drivers and run over the occasional errant orange rubber cone. It’s also a fundraiser for the Miners who coordinate the whole event, including the hamburger and soda stand. And that’s where the bored engineers and the blender come in…………..

QuadcopterSUN_3469It wasn’t non-stop, wheel-to-wheel racing. Far from it. Teams trotted out their machines when it suited them. There might be two cars on the track, or 15 minutes where the only sounds came from bicycle tires on the nearby gravel path. Booooooring! Boredom and engineers are a hazardous combination. They’ll either build something or take something apart to see how it works.

BlunderSUN_3472-2And that’s when the trouble started. In a somewhat chancy attempt to drum up business someone thought “we need to show more people the menu! Let’s use the quad rotor to fly the signboard around!”
The conversion of the light sport aircraft to cargo hauler was not without serious issues. A slight breeze started to blow the sign (and the quadcopter) northward, uneasily close to someone’s parked car. The next change in wind direction spun the placard into the rotors, threatening to produce a fine rain of confetti. Simply landing the signboard was risky, as it might fall sideways and wreck the chopper.
Up stepped human recovery vehicle Jon Silberhorn, who gently (and very carefully) plucked the flying weed-wacker from low orbit. It was Jon who said it was “like trying to catch a blender.”

Much of Car #3’s day was for testing. Tuft testing. Scientific yarn in the wind; real-life laminar flow analysis.
Confirmation of computer modeling. Learning. Doing. Experience.

Photo credit: Image 1, Kim Green.