“They have already had introduction to engineering. This is like the second step in Project Lead the Way,” Jackson said. “They get to do a little more exploration, a little more hands-on building stuff like robotics and that kind of thing.”
Students were split into teams of two with two weeks to design, build and perfect their vehicles.
After Jackson signed off on each group’s design process, the inventor drawings were completed and construction began. Each team’s objective was to have their vehicle move in a figure eight around two poles in a tub of water. Students then had to make their vehicles surface.
“The objective on the original project was to have a box like [the vehicle] delivered to the site. It had to come out of the box, go pick up a ring and then deliver it back to the box and then come back to the surface,” Jackson said. “We just didn’t have the parts to do that, so we had to modify the project a little bit.”
POE students used their understanding of hydraulics, basic wiring and electricity to build their projects.
“The original plan was to have one motor to help you raise it up and down and two motors to make it go forward and backward,” Jackson said. “Then you could also reverse the polarity, so you would have one going forward and one in reverse so you could turn it.”
A lot more went into the project than an outside observer might realize.
“They have to build their own switch box, use three different switches for three different motors and they have to wire each motor to its separate switch,” Jackson said. “You have to be able to reverse polarity on it to run it forward and backward.”
Engineering students Rylan Kerker and Kyle Buckner explained how challenging the process was firsthand.
“It took maybe a day to come up with the design and maybe two days to build it,” Buckner said. “The rest of it was pretty much just the wiring.”
Kerker agreed, “There are a lot of wires.”
When asked to describe the vehicle’s structure, Kerker replied, “PVC pipe with motors in it.”
Kerker said, “It has three motors on it, two going in the horizontal direction and one in the vertical.”
Buckner added, “The motors go forward and backward.”
Kerker explained the hollow PVC pipes filled up with water so the structure would not float.
Test drives allowed Buckner and Kerker to troubleshoot issues with the vehicle’s design.
“The propellers would come off and it would hit the bottom, so we added foam,” Kerker said.
Buckner said the soldering and wiring fell off, as well.
Kerker explained how the two handled the problem, “We just put a lot of solder on it. A little more solder every time.”
Zip ties and super glue were used to hold the propellers and motors in place.
“We had to switch propellers,” Buckner said. “They would spin for a little bit and then you would just see them float up.”
Both boys agreed the most challenging aspect of the project was wiring the switches. Buckner opened up the switch panel to show the numerous wires attached to the three switches.
Kerker said the problem was, “You have a very big soldering iron and a very small switch. ... The wiring was by far the hardest part, because we would get one motor going one way and one wouldn’t move and then it would cut on and go the other way.”
Added Buckner, “When you solder it, you actually have to keep the wires from touching or they [will] short out.”
A unanimous agreement was made to dub the vehicle “Demon.” Kerker said it was named so just because of how much trouble it caused the two of them. Trouble or not, Demon performed well.
Kerker and Buckner managed to drive their vehicle in a figure eight before surfacing.
Jackson expressed his pride for his students and his desire to try new projects.
“This is just one of the things we try to do here,” Jackson said. “The main problem is we just don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do.”