Amytheengineer.com

Episode 3: Portable Shelter


The challenge

For this challenge we were tasked with building a portable shelter that would protect some one from wind, fire, and water. For the test, they had a jet engine, a giant flame thrower, and one of the water shooters from the Bellagio fountain (which shoots water 50 stories in the air). So, in a nutshell - tough challenge!! 


My BluePrint

What I was envisioning for by blueprint is a lot like that inflating sphere 

from a Mission Impossible movie (you know, when 007 was caught skiing in an avalanche?). It would be made of really tough canvas and be inflated like an airbag. The reason I shied away from this idea was that I wasn't confident enough in my sewing ability to create something  with that would hold that much pressure. Also, as you can see from the blue team's performance in the water test, our team was certain that the water would just punch a hole through any fabric-like material we used.


Red Team's Design

We threw a lot of idea around like a geodesic dome, a pyramid shape, and ultimately decided on Gui's cone design made from folding panels. We used 1/2 inch thick polycarbonate for the panels (we wanted to use lighter foam-core sandwich panels but the lead time was too long) so it was really heavy unfortunately. The hinges worked much like a Jacob's ladder, so they bent in an "S" between the two panels. We wanted to use actual spring-steel, which is really strong, but instead we had to use shim stock because of lead time issues (again). The roof of the cone had a harness that the occupant would hang from, which would help keep the shelter from getting blown away. I like that both teams thought of this hanging idea!


Rubber VS. No Rubber

At the last minute, Dan wanted to put neoprene (rubber) on the bottom of the shelter to keep the whole thing from sliding. I have to say, Dan does have good ideas but he is a horrible communicator and only knows how to get his way by bullying people into it. Ultimately, I caved on this decision because I simply couldn't see any other way to get Dan to calm down, and honestly I was still willing to trust Dan even if I didn't agree with him (in hindsight I wish I had stood up to him). 


Ok so this is pretty funny. After I started cutting neoprene, Corey and Gui left the room (Corey was upset, Gui was calm and collected as always) and then both came back with smiles on their faces. I had no idea what was going on and was just trying to take care of Dan's stuff. Later Gui told me he said to Corey, "If it doesn't work, [Dan] goes" and Corey being like "Ooohh!!!"  So that explains why they were in such a good mood! I wish they had told me that so I wouldn't have been so stressed out! :)


My Take on Why we Failed

Both teams failed the water challenge because we didn't follow a critical part of me and Alison's original blue prints: laying flat. This was actually something the judges saw as a critical piece of our designs. If you lay flat, you aren't taking so much of the horizontal force of the jet, so your shelter has a better chance of staying put rather than getting blown apart. Also, I don't think the neoprene made a huge difference, I think our cone would have collapsed with or without the base and neoprene. I know Mark said we didn't put our screws far enough into the hinges, but we actually gave them a lot of room, and we even GLUED the hinges to the panels, the screws were just for backup. In the end our hinges ripped between the panels when the waterjet hit it. 


Funny Moments

Something I didn't get to see but heard about was Corey getting under the shelter. Gui was timing him and trying to talk to him, and all you could hear were muffled comments from Corey. Finally, Corey comes out and is like "I'd rather face the elements!!" He also said, "Man I was thinking if I couldn't get out the only choice I had was to gnaw my arm off."  Hah! Just one of those statements you can totally relate to... :)

Also, it was really funny to see Dan wear our shelter like a skirt :)