Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 3- Potpourri

Today included an incredible multitude of projects! Initially, we spent a short amount of time attempting to improve the light-sensing bot, however, this proved wholly unsuccessful. Neither rearranging the physical design or editing the speed on the program seemed to prevent the robot from crawling off the line. Soon, it was time to move on to the next subject. Well, if the overall purpose of this week is to understand the various programs, then this project certainly helped us reach that goal. While the bot itself went unfinished, my knowledge of LabView has improved. R.I.P (Rest In Pieces) dear little unfinished bot.

On a more cheerful note, the next project was creating a SAM animation that explained a certain concept in LabView. Choosing a random slip of paper, we were given the task of explaining "flags" through stop animation. Rather then explaining the contents of the final video in words, I'll post the video itself! (Sorry for the poor quality).

The activity following the SAM animation was experimenting with Lego Education kits, sets of Lego centered around collection solar and wind energy. Being interesting in Environmental Engineering, I was ecstatic! However, to my disappointment, the kits were BETA testers, and thus had quite a few frustrating bugs.

Upon first recieving the kit, the idea popped into my head to use the kits in answering a simple question about wind energy: does the number of blades affect the amount of energy obtained? I would like to say I discovered an answer to this question, but the time with the kits was almost entirely spent trying to get the apparatus to work properly. We were able to construct a working miniature windmill, and positioned it in front of a basic house fan. We hooked it up to the computer and used NXT 2.1 programmer to set up a graph measuring joules collected per second, for a duration of ten minutes. Turning the fan on high would cause the windmill to turn, and theoretically generate energy. However, while the monitors registered the watts being gathered at any given moment by the windmill, the collected joules failed to be represented.

We attempted to remedy this issue by doing various things such as repositioning the fan, changing the situtation of the blades on the windmill, and replacing some of the electronics with those from a new Lego Education kit. Nothing changed! Finally, we replaced our windmill with one made by another group, and this appeared to solve the issue. As the windmill turned, joules appeared on the screen. However, the minute we turned off the fan and the windmill stopped turning, the joules vanished! The screen read 0J, randomly erasing records of the joules the windmill had collected. Buggy! The strangest part of it all was that we couldn't make heads or tails of what was causing the issue in the first place, or the source of the problem. Nonetheless, we made a lovely model of a windmill.

I'd like to work with the Lego Education kits in the future, to see if other (more successful) energy effieciency experiements are possible.

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