Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

How to Build a Rocket

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

You do not have to have an advance degree to build a rocket. Assuming you not planning to take a trip on it yourself anyone can put a simple rocket together in the luxury of their own home and blast it off into the skies. There are many rocket kits available for sale and you can always chose from one of those. Be aware that many of these are not functional. Rockets are cylindrical in shape. Flying saucers or some Star wars design look cool but won’t work very well.

The basic components of a rocket are the cylindrical body, nose cone, three fins for stabilizing, and, of course the engine. It is very important that the nose cone have a parachute attached so that the rocket can float safely back to earth.

Rocket How to Build a Rocket

Step one:

Attach the nose cone to the rocket. What type of glue you use depends on the material of that the cone and body are made of. While wood glue can be used on cardboard it will not work on plastic with which plastic cement has to be used.

Step two:

One of the most important features of your rocket is the aerodynamics is vital. To make sure that your rocket is aerodynamic the fins have to be sleek and smooth to allow easy passage through the air and to keep it from being weighed down. It’s best to make your fins out of balsa wood. Make a template of the fins and place it on the wood to trace the shape. Cut the wood with a craft knife and sand the wood to make it smooth. Now you can attach the fins to the body with the glue of your choice.

Step three:

The engine mount is attached to the body of the rocket, just below the fins. To attach it securely, the glue should be applied with a cotton swab to the mounts exterior, firmly fastening it to the rockets body. An ignition system will be needed to start the engine. You can get one easily from the same source that sold your engine.

Rocket 1 How to Build a Rocket

Step four:

Once your new rocket is assembled you can jazz it up any way you would like with some paint. Along with making your rocket look good, paint plays an important part in aerodynamics and applying more than a few light coats can help the rocket travel smoothly through the air.

Once you have mastered building your rocket, fire it up. It may not be the Starship Enterprise but if it goes straight up you’ve got a working rocket.

How to Build a Robot

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Robotics has become a very rapidly growing science during the last few decades and with advances in electronics and computer science robots will become more and more common. Today however, consumer robots, while available, cost many thousands of dollars. The science is emerging and there are dozens of resources that hobbyists can use, and kits that can get you started on your own robot.

Step One:

Your robot will need a body. Without it, it’s nothing but collections of servos and sensors, and a wheel or three to give it mobility. While materials may vary in the details most robots have similar structures and forms. The body is usually constructed of a few layers of sheet metal. Strapped to the chassis are the motors and sensors, the tools that the robot uses to move about and interact with its environment. Atop this layer are the chips and motherboards or the brains of the robot. Form a circular shell of your sheet metal and weld on a bottom. Attach all of the sensors and motors to the bottom of the open container that you have formed. Above this create a level for your electronics (computers) and secure it to the sides securely.  Some people add a third layer, which may contain cameras or some kind of cargo- a payload. Of course your design should consider what it is that you want the robot to do but if you are a new designer start small.

Robot 1 How to Build a Robot

Step Two:

In much the same manner that people possess a selection of sensors (eyes, ears, touch) that help them interact with the world, robots must have this ability. While there is a wide selection to choose from your robot will need a minimum of some type of infrared or Sonar devise that will allow it to see where things are in relation to it self. Place your sensor package near the bottom of the chassis and its receptors appropriately, allowing it “vision”. A 360 picture of the world. Next connect the robots actuators, or its muscles so that it can move around and react to the world.

Step Three:

Ok. Now your robot can see, feel, and move around the world. It needs to be able to learn what to do with the information that it collects. Most robots need a small on-board computer that takes data from the sensors and translates it to motor movement. Good starter chipsets are those that use a programming language that you are familiar with or one that is easy to learn. C++, QBASIC are a couple of good starter languages. Later you will be able to use fuzzy logic which will allow your computer to make decisions with little experience and outside your programming.

Build a Robot How to Build a Robot

Now you’re finished. Remember that you will want to start with a very simple robot. You won’t come out with Asimo on your first try.

Learn more on How to build a robot.

How to Build a Solar Furnace

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Fossil fuels are becoming scarce and everyone is looking for alternatives’ Apple Inc is considering using solar energy to power its iPod, California’s Ironwood prison is installing more than 6000 solar panels and Boston’s Fenway Park is using solar energy for Red Sox games. After many years on the fringes solar power is soon to be Americas mainstream power source. Panel attached to the roof convert sunlight into electricity and still in the high end as far as expense goes and cannot compete with cheaper, less environmentally friendly fuels like oil and coal. Building a solar furnace yourself is one way of harnessing the sun´s energy without the expense of buying factory made equipment.

Step One:

Buy or make yourself mirror chips from glass or plastic. Glass is less expensive because the material conducts heat better. The chips should be about ¾” long. If you need to cut them use and oil-fed glass cutter as the cuts are cleaner than a diamond wheel and you will spend less time trimming the edges.

Solar Furnace How to Build a Solar Furnace

Step Two:

Next use plywood that is ½” thick on the frame. It can be thicker if you are planning to make your solar furnace very wide. Before you assemble the frame, pre-drill the holes for the screws that you will use to secure the mirrors to the plywood.

Step Three:

If you are planning to make you solar furnace very wide make four squares of mirrors. Tilt the mirrors toward the middle of the plywood and use toothpicks secured with hot glue as spacers.

Step Four:

Make or buy hinges for the mirror. You can make them easily by putting a bit of RTV silicone caulk at the mirrors corners, again using a piece of toothpick as a spacer. If you need to adjust the mirrors later you will have no trouble using the screws. Your mirrors will need to be adjusted periodically to get the best focused light possible.

Solar Furnace 1 How to Build a Solar Furnace

Step Five:

This step is very important. Once you have secured all of your mirrors, cover all of them except a single one near the center. Cover it with Post-it notes. Now take your solar furnace into the sun and use the one uncovered mirror as a reference to focus all of the other mirrors. Take your time and focus the solar furnace directly on the area that you want to heat.

How to Build a Solar Oven

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Every second of every day, the surface of the earth is covered with energy from the sun. Nearly all of the energy on earth comes from it. You can use this energy to cook up any number of tasty and nutritious meals with a simple solar oven.

Material needed: (do not use any materials that may cause toxic fumes)

  • Any cardboard box (pizza delivery boxes are ideal)
  • Box knife or scissors
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Black heavy bond paper
  • Stick or dowel rod
  • Old newspaper

Solar Oven How to Build a Solar Oven

Step One:

Find two boxes. One of these boxes should fit inside the other, leaving a space on each side of about 2”-3”. This space can vary just a little. You will be filling it with newspaper. Line the bottom of the large box with newspaper and place the smaller box inside. Now fill the space between the boxes with crumpled newspaper also.

Step Two:

Line the sides of the smaller box with aluminum foil. Make sure to use non-toxic tape or fold the edges of the foil over the top of the box edge to hold it firmly. Now line the bottom of the smaller box with black construction paper to absorb the heat that will be generated.

Step Three:

Add 2” around the trace line and cut out the pattern to make a reflector. Cover the pattern with aluminum foil. Smooth out the wrinkles. Make certain to secure the aluminum foil with non-toxic tape or glue. Staple the reflector to the outside back of the large box.

Step Four:

Place the oven with the opening of the box and the reflector facing the sun for maximum exposure. Place the food to be cooked inside the oven.

Some warnings and helpful tips

  • Preheating takes about 30 and cooking time takes about twice as long as a conventional oven.
  • Use bigger boxes for larger ovens and smaller boxes for smaller ovens.
  • Do not use any materials that give off fumes such as Styrofoam
  • Don’t use this type of oven for foods that are frozen, need high temps or that have to be cooked rapidly.

How to Build a Still

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Many connoisseurs prefer to make their own alcohol.  In the U.S. it is illegal to distill alcohol, but in countries like New Zealand, Italy and Austria, one is free to make different kinds of alcoholic beverages. This is where a working still becomes important. It is a simple device that separates the components one by one from a mixture of different components. For instance, it can easily separate beer and whisky, and wine and brandy.

A still works on the principle of distillation whereby the mixture it gently heated and the substance with the lowest boiling point moves out first. For example, if coke is distilled, then water will be the first item to evaporate, leaving behind sugar and other additives. It should be noted that no new substance is formed during distillation; only different elements of a compound are dethatched from one another.

Build Still How to Build a Still

The materials that will be needed to build a still are as follows:

  • A cooking pot that can hold at least 1-gallon of water
  • A bowl with round bottom; flat bottomed bowls should not be used because it becomes difficult it collect the distillate
  • A small weight to keep the bowl in place
  • A magnet to prevent the collection glass from moving around the pot
  • A cooking thermometer to measure the temperature of the liquid
  • ½ gallon of red wine
  • 8oz of water
  • Few ice cubes

Put the cooking pot on the burner and pour ½ gallon of red wine into it. In the center of the pot, place the collection glass. To ensure that the glass stays in position, place the magnet into the glass. Cover the pot with the bowl and place weight on it. The bowl should be able to seal the pot completely. A small gap would affect the process adversely. Don’t forget to place a few ice cubes in the bowl.

Turn on the burner and constantly check the temperature. When the temperature reaches 120o Fahrenheit, turn down the flame. As the temperature slowly rises, methyl alcohol is the first to escape at the temperature of 148.5oF. It is followed by ethyl alcohol at the temperature of 173oF and water at 212oF. As the temperature of the pot reaches 212oF, shut off the heat.

Use the device called hygrometer to check the proof of alcohol. For novices the reading as high as 20 proof is good enough, but experts should try to obtain something like 80 proof which is 40 percent of alcohol by volume.