Monday, December 10, 2007

The boat project

So after a month of work we finally got to racing our boats this past Sunday. I thought I'd take the time to reflect and share some pictures.

Our task was to create a boat which we could get in and race, using only a 4'x8' sheet of plywood, two 8' 2"x4"s, sixty feet of duct tape, and as much paint as needed. Like a lot of my projects for 3d design I incorporated the computer in my design. The added bonus for this particular project was that I could not only use the computer to calculate the volume (to find the buoyancy force) and surface area ( to keep it within the plywood limit), but I could also layout my cuts and get a sense of it's center of mass and balance. This allowed me to go many designs past my initial design and create a much more functional boat.

There is a down side to the digital preparation, that's the precision needed to create it's real world replica. Yes, I can pull the lengths, angles of pieces and angles of cuts off the computer, however, all the triangles required trig to correctly layout and measurements accurate to the 32nd of an inch. To make things more complicated, there are two additional measurement layers in this layout file. One for the angle of the corners and another for the angles at which to make the cuts. Green pieces are surfaces facing the inside of the boat, while red pieces are the outer faces. So when cutting these with the circular saw, if there was an angle to be cut it had to be cut with a green piece on the right and a red one on the left to assure the angles would assemble correctly.

Aside from precision another problem as you might have guessed, is that it's hard to expect group members to decipher such a system and to approach cuts in the same precise manner as one another. So, this is how I spent a vast majority of my thanksgiving break, and took much of the assembly on myself, not because they didn't want to help, but because it would have been difficult to pull them into a work flow I unintentionally created. Fortunately as the construction came to a close I could bring them more into it's assembly and completion so hopefully they can feel like it's as much their boat as it is mine, and I think they do.

We felt, because of it's primitive, triangular, digital look, it was appropriate for our boat to have a starfox themed paint job. After the primer had been added, our tests completed and minor touch ups and revisions made, we spent the night before the race finalizing our paint job.

On the day of the race we were still unclear about who would row. me at 205 lbs with a fairly strong and experienced row (I like renting row boats when I go fishing) or Tingting, who's roughly half my weight, has less rowing experience and strength but has considerably more space in the boat. Since we never had a chance to test the boat with the oars I took to the water a few minutes before our race to see if I'd have enough room next to my knees to row. It worked, and while there were minor hang ups during the race from the oars crowding me, we did well. We didn't win but our boat definitely proved to be a very steady and reliable design, which is a victory on it's own.

Throughout the creation of the boat I had talked about how much weight it could potentially hold and how it could easily hold both the girls in our group. So after the race we gave it a try and not only could they easily fit, but the weight distribution was even better than if there were only one person.

The boat project was a great conclusion to the semester. It's one of those things you see as being within reach, but would never actually do. So I'm glad we had an assignment to make us give it a try. As always it was great to see something I created in the computer come to life, to see that I'm still in touch with my math/science side., and to have worked with different people. I'm excited to use what I learned on this project to complete some simple wood furniture in the near future.