The Crane Is Gone; Now It’s Time for the Details

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Enough of the heavy lifting. Now it’s doors, windows, trim and fixtures, details, details, details. Some of the shrubbery, however fake, was even delivered today. Or as team leader Mary Puleo (left) said, “now it’s time for the icing on the cake!”

Here’s where the crew split into simultaneous work teams.
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Two students hung and connected the ceiling fan while others struggled to install the front door frame. Taking a house apart, no matter how perfectly it fit together in Rolla, is guaranteed to be a little, uh, different when it’s time to put it all back together.

It simply isn’t going to be as simple as hoped.

Day #2, and We Have a House!

DSC_2496It’s hard to size up the competition. One house arrived late today, other house lots look like collections of building materials. Next-door neighbor Clemson trucked in a 3,000+-piece 3-D jigsaw puzzle, each piece CNC-machined plywood. Its poured (!) concrete foundation even contains a built-in passive heating and cooling system. Their team is big, they work like crazy, and are obviously excited about their project because they seem to be smiling all the time.

The Miners? From slab foundation to full sized house in less than eight hours. DSC_2128
The “Crane Guys” showed up right at 9:00 a.m. this morning and by lunchtime all three containers were locked down in place.

The afternoon was devoted to “raising the roof,” first swinging in the three upper walls with windows that supply much of the Nest Home’s natural lighting.
The Miners had a full crew inside of the “nest,” waiting for the roof panels to “fly” (sorry!) in. Drop the first roof section, insert a bolt or two to establish alignment, then bring in the next slab while the rest of team scrambles to add and tighten all the remaining fasteners.

This crew wrapped up almost exactly at 5:00 p.m., a far cry from previous S&T solar projects that went round the clock. That’s the sign of excellent design that solves the problem at hand.

Still plenty of work to finish in the coming days. Wiring, plumbing, photovoltaics, and and endless rounds of technical “code” inspections.

DSC_2178But at least our competitors know we have a house. There’s even a welcome mat. Er, welcome chalkboard.

Day #1 of Solar Decathlon Construction.

DSC_1914 (1)The S&T Solar House Design team had already moved their Nest Home once, some 5 miles from the indoor build site to the Rolla campus, so setting it up on a wide-open parking lot was a piece of cake.
No drama, no worries, just mark off the lot, set up the three steel frames, attach all the deck and flooring sections, and screw down the decking. Then go out for dinner, all well before sunset.

It wasn’t just that they knew how to move the house, though that is extremely important. The could move it because they stayed on schedule during the roughly eight-month construction cycle, a feat often planned, but never actually accomplished by the Miners.
They Day #1 payoff? The S&T Nest Home was one of only two solar homes approved for seismic compliance.

This is, after all, California.

Registration at the Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon 2015 looks promising. The layout is much better arranged for solar decathletes and public alike. Adjoining parking, plenty of nearby shade, and a better “village” feel to things. More human. Not stretched waaaaay down a converted Marine runway.

The Miners were the first team to get to registration and were surprised to see they were the ONLY team ready to sign in.
And the first team (we think) to check on their house at the vehicle staging site. DSC_1536DSC_1545They checked for damage (very little) and got an early look at the other houses still tied down on massive trailers.

And the first team to do a “course walk” over and around lot #108, their home for theDSC_1570 next three weeks or so, and check on site elevation and develop a strategy for vehicle placement, all for tomorrow’s 7:00 a.m. starting whistle.

The Miners site has a slight dome-like curve to it, but it’s also on the highest point of the competition area, directly under Decathlon cameras. That means it may well be the easiest structure to see when visitors begin flowing in.

And that’s a good place to be.

So It Begins…

DSC_0397Two weeks ago yesterday, the Missouri S&T Solar House Design Team unveiled the beautiful new “Nest Home,” S&T’s entry in the 2015 Solar Decathlon.
Some 200 people showed up to tour the new home and hear team leader Mary Puleo and PR director Steve Rusakiewicz tell how their S&T education is guiding them toward solving energy challenges of the future.DSC_0642

It took another week to disassemble the structure and load it on trucks for the 1,800-mile trip to Irvine, CA, and an additional week to wrap up classwork, finish up DSC_0722last-minute details for the Decathlon, then drive (or fly) to Orange County.

An hour from now registration and team meeting begin in the Orange County Great Park, site of the soon-to-be-built solar community. The house should have arrived at the staging site a few hours ago, so the crew will check on that, take a VERY deep breath, and prepare for over week of very long hours, very hard work, and no time off. But it WILL be fun!

Sound like a typical week for your average S&T undergrad….

Just a Quiet Afternoon in the Country

The City of Rolla lets S&T design teams use the Rolla National Airport tarmac for vehicle testing, and Solar Car, Formula SAE Racing, and now the Formula Electric teams have all taken advantage of the wide-open space.

Originally a WWII Army Air Corps training facility, the airport has a long history of hosting general aviation aircraft, business jets and even warbirds. It’s been a take-off spot for the U.S. Army’s Golden Knight Parachute Team on a local jump.
WWII-era hangars, still in use today, dominate the landscape. A restored Air Force C-47 cargo plane, owned by an S&T alum, sits proudly next to a modern aircraft maintenance facility.
Sunday afternoon the S&T Formula Electric team ‘took the field’ to introduce incoming freshmen to the joys of silent speed and recruit them to the team. The newbies learned the basics of laying out an autocross track lined by hundreds of SUN_0132orange cones, and got excited about being a part of a real racing team (it’s really a design team, but don’t tell them that). Barring any tied-down Cessnas, Piper Cubs or crop dusters, the aircraft parking areas are the ideal place to test, test, and test some more. Just one rule; arriving/departing aircraft have the right of way. No worries, not a plane to be seen.

Which brings us to the questions…

Do you realize a big private jet can be pretty quiet on landing approach? That if your head is under the hood of your race car, or you’re busy analyzing data on your laptop that you might not notice approaching traffic?

Nah, that’d never happen!

What a Thrilling Finish to Formula Sun Grand Prix 2015!

There are no photo finishes in a solar car race. Be it a three-day track race or week-long road tour the winner usually emerges from the pack well before the checkered flag is dropped, so the real scramble is for the runners up. DSC_5761
Iowa State, which held on to the top spot ever since S&T’s spin out on day #1, ran a great car, had a great strategy, and were the best garage mates one could ask for. Congrats to the Cyclones!

By noon today the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots were pretty much set. Missouri S&T, in 4th place, checked the numbers and realized that there was no way the 5th-place team could catch them, and no way they could slip past #3. OK, it is what it is.

Suddenly, with less than an hour to go, things changed. Third-ranked Illinois State unexpectedly ran out of power and couldn’t get up the hill to turn #1; they were done. And the Miners looked at the numbers again….

If, just if, Solar Miner VIII could make three or four laps in the remaining 45 minutes they could snare the last podium honor, their first in ten years. They knew it was a long shot as the battery pack was marginal and the array was on its last legs, but they quickly calculated the most efficient speeds that would get them home and sent SMVIII back out on the track.

Hope springs eternal but hope lasted for about six minutes this afternoon, the time it took the Miners to complete a single lap. Solar Miner VIII’s farewell tour ended with the car just drifting into the pits, out of juice. The upset bid was foiled. So goes life.

They could have built a new car for this race but Solar Miner VIII was run for three years for a reason. They cut expenditures, use what they had, and built a financial foundation to “recharge” for the future. These undergrads knew their improvement had to come not on the track, but from organizational excellence, maturity and teamwork.
What the standings don’t show, is that the ’15 Solar Miners have coalesced into a force solar car alumn haven’t seen in nearly a decade. They are young, enthusiastic, and dedicated. They are efficient, work extremely well together, have fun as a group, and are hungry to reach the next level. And now they have experience.

NOW they will design and build the new car. This year they mastered the new battery system. They’ve squirreled away an excellent array rather than waste it on an old chassis, saving $60,000 in the process.

And they have succeeded in building the team, the system and the process that will return Missouri S&T to its rightful place in the pantheon of solar car royalty.

See you next year!


Got Facebook? Watch the Solar Car Video!

There’s a new video on the Solar Car Team’s Facebook page!

Check it out at Missouri S&T Solar Car Team on FB?

(Translation: This elderly blogger doesn’t know how to link it into the blog post.)

A Solar Car Race and You Want Clouds???

Who knew?

Overcast skies made the first hours of racing kinda slow this morning, but about 11:00 a.m. the skies cleared and the cars really sped up.

For a few hours.

And then it got hot. Really hot.

And the battery packs got hot. Really hot.

So hot the Solar Miner VIII crew is praying for clouds.
The Miners have slowed down in an attempt to keep the batteries from reaching their thermal limit. If clouds sweep in and temps drop the batteries will cool, and they can forget about the array and run off the batteries until the ‘tank’ is empty.

We think this description is accurate.

Tires Are Becoming a Hot Commodity!

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Despite yesterday’s near disaster, the Miners are tied for 3rd place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix. The car is running very smoothly, but the team is concerned about running out of tires.

Rumors are the top five teams are chewing through tires at an alarming rate because of the stifling heat. It’s 101 degrees right now, four degrees higher than yesterday, and the breezes have dropped off to near nothing.
You can’t just run down to the Pep Boys store to buy a a set of these limited edition, 90-PSI rubber wonders. You only have what you bring, and that has led to some interesting negotiations.

A few teams didn’t make it through scrutineering and haven’t been approved for the track, so they’re sitting on a stockpile of increasingly valuable tires. The stronger crews are “buddying up” to their less-successful brethren in hopes of scoring a set or two of tires.
The tires, about the size of a kid’s BMX bike tire, are pricey at $100 each or more. School/state bureaucracies frown on selling state property for cash, and are even more reluctant to accept IOUs for payment. We’re pretty sure next week some teams will go hat-in-hand to their purchasing people to say “uh, could you please send a multi-hundred dollar check to the State University of XYZ? No, we don’t have a receipt and we eventually threw away the tires we “bought.”

Good luck with that.