Celebrating St. Pat’s

DSC_5210 - Version 2 (3)Yeah, there’s a parade, green-painted streets, couches on lawns complete with loud music and miscellaneous empty glass and aluminum containers scattered about, and two days of “independent study” in lieu of classes.
DSC_5289 (1)

So what? On St Patrick’s day, in a corner of the Kummer Student Center life went on, work went on, even if the workers were “greened up.”
In a madhouse of motion the Mars Rover Team was firing up Zenith’s new carbon fiber and Plexiglas “tires” before heading to a local quarry that stands in for the Red Planet’s surface. Four hours of playing in the dirt revealed some communication errors, but their new “tires” did well.
DSC_5143Solar Car burned through a lot of 400 grit sandpaper trying to perfect the molds for their first-ever monocoque race car. They’ve abandoned 17+ years of building tubular frames in favor of a structural exoskeleton, and that means a stiff learning curve as they head into a new direction. Speaking of new directions the 2016 American Solar Challenge will leapfrog it’s way through national parks from Ohio to the Badlands of South Dakota this summer to help mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
DSC_5107 (1)The steel bridge crew held a pizza-fueled strategy session in the Innovation Suite while the concrete canoe team used St. Paddy’s day to add a green stripe to this year’s watercraft and inlaid a line of shamrocks in the boat’s floor. They’re going the extra mile because S&T is hosting the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions this year. Design team members are going all-out to make the 2016 Mid Continent Student Conference the standard against which all future host schools will be judged. And fall short they will. When over 300 guests from other schools see S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center, its fleet of support vehicles, massive manufacturing facilities, and crack(ed) professional support staff, look for the Miner admissions office to see a flood of transfer applications from the surrounding states.

They’re BACK!

15+ student-led design teams, doing who-knows-what, have come back from winter break all fired up to build things.
Concrete Canoe poured their new boat and filled it with water so it cures slowly. No one has slipped any goldfish or frogs into it. So far.

Several teams have been making a mess cutting high-density machining foam. The dust makes the shop floors awfully slippery.
Everyone pitched in to make the place sparkling clean for the UM System President’s visit, which didn’t actually happen. Good news is that teams found all kinds of missing stuff.

Our HPER rocket scientists are becoming DIY explosives “experts.” In a scenario tailor made for YouTube they’re mixing their own rocket fuel/propellant; in the SDELC conference room it was feared, but that was just practice. “Oh, no! We’ll tell you when we’re mixing REAL explosives!” was the response. Comforting words….
Solar car has been laying up molds for the revamped vehicle. They use a choreographed/chaotic system of applying slow-cure epoxy and heavy fiberglass mats, then repeating the process to produce upper and lower body molds that look terrible on the outside, but on the inside, smooth as a KU football player’s backside.

No offense intended.

The Best Birthday Present EVER!

And the story behind it…

Let us first introduce to you, Richard Dalton, shop and safety operations manager at S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center.

Richard has a slightly mellow personality, but he shoulders tremendous responsibility at the center. He teaches dozens of technical and safety classes, oversees OrgSync and all the sophisticated software needed to design student projects, buys (or steals) and maintains a barn full of lathes, mills, grinders, welders, and composite layup equipment, machines that well-meaning (but inexperienced) students seem to trash as fast as he can fix it.

Richard also teaches truck/trailer drivers’ education classes after normal(?) duty hours. It’s a wonder he hasn’t burst a blood vessel trying to show students how to back up a 28-foot trailer, or park a big dually pickup truck. Stressful at best…

He’s a master mechanic, superb machinist and even built his own home. A computer/IT wizard, YouTube aficionado, and has been deployed to Afganistan with the Army Reserve.

DSC_7810His office is his inner sanctum, his personal retreat where few are welcome. It’s home to several video monitors, his personal tool set, and the occasional canoe when things get too crowded in the shop. It’s even been known to house a few hundred plastic Easter eggs lovingly placed where it’ll take him months to find them.


DSC_3246Many months ago, Richard’s very expensive and custom-fitted office chair went missing. He was very “close” to that chair and distraught when it disappeared, as similar chairs just wouldn’t “fit.” There were rumors it rolled away DSC_6536 (1) on its own, to go “find itself” and travel the world. Sightings were reported all over the western U.S., often in the vicinity of traveling S&T design teams it was said.
But it never resurfaced.

Fast forward to Irvine, California with the Solar House Design Team and their Nest Home at the Solar Decathlon; high-energy house reassembly under strict time constraints. Richard absolutely WOWED the students with his skills, enthusiasm and experience, and with his birthday on the horizon the students were desperate to show their appreciation to “’Mater,” as he’s known on campus. What to do?

The house has to be furnished, right? What if, just IF, they could find the errant furniture, wouldn’t it be great to bring it “home”? If they COULD recover it, how could they possibly sneak it into the Nest Home as a proper surprise? What on-hand equipment could they use?

Well, there IS that big crane sitting right outside, and since Richard (that’s him on the left) was busy talking……….

And THAT is the story of the best birthday present EVER!

P.S. Too bad the crane operator wouldn’t haul him up about 100 ft. Stupid OSHA rules…..

A Lovely Day for a Canoe Ride


Rain, wind, cold, clouds, sun, more rain and more wind. And your canoe is made of concrete.
UM and S&T canoesDSC_2047 But what you remember most is touching paddles with your competitors to say “well done!”

At the annual concrete canoe/steel bridge twin bill in Lawrence, KS this weekend Missouri S&T swept (dominated, actually) the mens and women’s canoe sprint races, while Mizzou edged out the Miners in the coed sprints. Melissa Heskett (bow) and Aspen Williams pulled ahead of the three other strong Show-Me State entries (SLU, Mizzou, and S&T ally Missouri State), beating traditional powers Oklahoma and KU.
GirlsDSC_1681Overall S&T’s Concrete Canoe Team finished 6th in the event, which balances design report, presentation, product and performance. Mixing the Miner mascot, Joe, with every geek’s favorite movie “Star Wars,” hatched the idea of Joebi-Wan Canoebi. The product display included a deep-space backdrop across which Tie fighters bearing TiefighterDSC_7527each of the the concrete components seemed magically suspended in mid-air. R2-D2? Its backside was the cross-section mockup of how the canoe was assembled. The overall theme, paired with a very well-constructed boat helped Rolla take 3rd in product, their best showing in recent memory. Now Joebi-Wan Canoebi is safely packed away for the return trip to 10th Street and Highway 63.

Next year the ante goes up. Way up, as the Mid-Continent ASCE conference returns to Rolla for the first time in 17 years. That means these two teams have to compete AND host the event. Quite a project, but nothing an S&T student design team can’t handle.

It’s Springtime In The Ozarks!

The dogwoods are blooming, turtles are crossing the road en masse, thunderstorms are brewing and S&T’s design teams are on the road. SolarCarDSC_6875
A revitalized solar car team took a weekend training run on the Licking race circuit, aka US highway 63. They’re wringing out Solar Miner VIII to make sure the battery management system is doing its critical job. SolCarDSC_6824Cloudy weather, road kill and brittle battery tabs limited the car to a mere 90 miles, but before long they’ll wire in the new, and much more energy dense battery pack.

Tomorrow morning four teams head out to intercollegiate competitions. Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe head to KU at Lawrence, KS for the ASCE Mid-continent student conference while two other groups head to drought-plagued California; Human Powered Vehicle to San Jose and Advanced Aero Vehicle Group/SAE Aero to Van Nuys. The HPVC team will debut Leviathan, the amazing leaning recumbent trike. We’ve seen other vehicles made up as cattle, but never has a team showed up with a sea monster beautifully painted on their bike, trike, or whatever.

The Miners have built their best boat in years and dubbed it (cue Star Wars theme) Joebi-Wan Canoebe. A concrete cross-section is nestled in R2-D2’s belly and miniature TIE fighters make the cutest little materials containers you ever saw.

Steel Bridge’s over-arch design is a radical departure from last year’s winning entry. It’s much lighter and there’re holding last-minute practice this evening.

Tonight’s a packing frenzy. Loading gear, checking lists for the 10th time, just another evening on a design team.

Stay tuned for more anecdotes and pics. It’s gonna be a busy weekend!

Just Another Weekend at the Office




Peter 3SUN_3470


With a guest appearance by Batman, the Flying Squirrel……….

Concrete Canoe Racers Are A Determined Lot!

We’re blasting off to San Jose to catch up with the Human Powered Vehicle Team so detailed stories on today’s canoe races will follow later. Here’s a quick sample……

Haven’t seen the all the results, but S&T took 2nd in the women’s endurance race.

A Typical Concrete Canoe Event

Day 1:
Haul the boatBoatSUN_1742
Lift the boatLifttheboatSUN_1743
Float the boatFloatUN_1746
Sink the boatSinkteboatSUN_1753
Photograph the boat.PhototheboatDSC_3877
Raise the boatRaisetheboatSUN_1774
Lift the boatBoat1DSC_3883
Haul the boatBoat1DSC_3895
Tape the boatTapetheboatUN_1693

Some quick observations:

There will be a run on duct tape in Stillwater tonight.

Oklahoma has brought some horses. If those guys do anything more than carry their canoe the other teams’ paddlers jobs just got a lot harder.

One boat looks like a dugout canoe, and is just about as tough to lift.

It doesn’t say much about confidence in your boat that you put duct tape on BEFORE you do the dunk test.

Mizzou’s Aggregator and Kansas’ Ad Astra have superbly-built canoes. Nice to see them competing head-to-head again, without TV revenue fouling things up.

Weather will be beautiful but windy for the races tomorrow. Look for some crews to struggle against the wind and waves.

It’s The Crazy Season!

Student design competitions are in full swing. Bright and early tomorrow starts the Steel Bridge contest, followed just a day later by the Concrete Canoe event, both in Stillwater, OK. The ’14 S&T bridge is a stunning example of design simplicity that takes but three students to assemble in under 10 minutes. The Route 66-themed The Mother Rowed canoe has so far overcome some pretty serious cracks after a critical pour component didn’t arrive in time. If it survives the trailer ride to OSU country, it should be OK.

Overlapping those two events is the ASME West Coast Human Powered Vehicle Competitions, two time zones to the west in San Jose, CA. The road rash on Peter Freiberger’s carbon-fiber masterpiece has been repaired, and the endurance race will be held on an old-fashioned velodromes so hay bales and overly-aggressive riding should be less of a problem.

FASEDC3SUN_0991In the midst of all this chaos Rolla’s flashiest and most consistent team, Formula SAE, has carved out some asphalt of their own at the Rolla National Airport. Nights, weekends, rain or shine they’ve been testing, testing, testing. Another 10 days or so and the full aero package will be ready while the body-panels-of-many-colors will give way to one of the flashiest machines of the 400+ teams that run in these events world-wide.

In other news, Phoenix, the Mars Rover Design Team’s freshly-unveiled machine was rolling on its own late last night, and Saturday’s Illinois test of the Advanced Aero Vehicle Groups monster rocket was a good one. Most components worked as designed, nothing broke, and they got all the pieces back. Not a bad day’s work.

Lastly, from the Conde’ Nast travel guide. You’re probably in the wrong hotel if your toilet has a sign on the tank telling you not to drink the water. The advance party for Human Powered Vehicle sent us this travel tidbit tonight:

“Is it really necessary to tell hotel occupants not to drink out of the toilet? Really?”

Time To Get Civil.

S&T has two civil engineering-focused design teams, and both hit the road exactly one week from now.

BRidge2SUN_8974Steel Bridge packs up a 1/10th –scale bridge that is assembled by just three students in a race against the clock, then has to support 2,500 lbs of dead weight. Without flexing too much. The past weeks it’s been test, modify, practice and do it all again. Learn not to drop bolts lest ye be docked critical assembly seconds. Hand off each section with great precision so the ironworkers drop it into place just right.

Concrete Canoe is a 300-lb, single-piece project that if all goes well remains in one piece. A week ago the team “birthed” The Mother Rowed, a Route 66-themed watercraft made of lightweight(?) concrete. Not the stuff that goes into driveways and sidewalks, but a purpose-designed mixture for a narrowly-defined and somewhat iffy engineering application.CanoeDSC_1990“Mother” was molded on an upside-down form that could only be extracted when the whole assembly was carefully flipped over, a task that calls for lots of team work. More accurately, a lot of teams work.

Solution? Yell out “Everybody! Drop what you’re doing and get over here!” In seconds Mars Rover, Solar Car, AAVG Rocket, and Baja students jumped in and under Erin Bolling’s direction, carefully lifted and rolled the monster over. Simple, quick, and efficient; that’s the joy of having teams working together. They work in the broadest sense, using skills, cooperation, and a great attitude to help each other.

How’s the canoe look? Wellllllllllll, let’s hope for smooth sailing on the road to Stillwater OK. Concrete cracks, and it cracked a lot when the form was removed. While duct tape may be a solution, “Mother” looks much like Old Route 66, with bigger cracks bigger than planned or expected. It’s gonna take some creative work to get boat ready to go. The real risk comes from rough roads. Or dropping the boat. Let’s hope for neither.