Thursday, December 17, 2009

What A Day!

Today was a great day. I got all my grades finalized and entered into the computer, so I am officially on vacation! And we received word of a very generous donation towards our work in Honduras! And I ate dinner at the new Chewy's restaurant in town! And I got to play "free style pool" with Jono at the YMCA! And then The M and the boys and I finished decorating the Christmas tree! And then The M and I watched the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance" which we like very much. My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Worlds Collide

How many sorority girls does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but she has to call Daddy.

No, seriously, how many sorority girls does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb, and one to make a T-shirt.

OK, just having a little fun. No offence intended. In fact, I'm writing today to brag a little about one of my students, Teresa who is not only a sorority girl, but a fine young mechanical engineer. This is an unusual combination, especially when she maintains a stellar GPA. Hence the title of this post. She has been working with me this semester to design and build a prototype hydro turbine like the kind we want to build in Honduras. See my earlier post.

Teresa has accompanied me to Honduras on two occasions. The first time was just after her freshman year, and she was a little nervous. I remember that as we drove on the windy back roads up and down the sides of mountains and across rivers, she would listen to her iPod and close her eyes to try and relax by not thinking about the road. I also remember how one day we were stuck in city traffic and she started feeling sick, apparently from something she ate. In an attempt to be comforting, I told her that if she needed to, she could just open the door of our four wheel drive SUV and throw up on the side of the road. But I could tell from the look on her face, that making street pizza in front of me and the other students would be very embarrassing for her. So I did what anyone would do, and drove over the median and into the empty lane of oncoming traffic. This got us back to the hotel in time for her to be sick in private. Yee ha.

The village kids in Honduras always loved Teresa, and she spent a lot of time playing with them and talking to them in Spanish. The day she was sick, all the kids were sad she didn' t come. Donde esta Teresa? Donde esta mi amiga? I said, hey what about me? I'm here. I'm fun and cool, right? They just looked scared and ran away.

In this picture she is welding the turbine with the oxy-acetylene torch. What did he say? A sorority girl welding? How cool is that? To top it off, she's wearing her sorority logo. I love it when stereotypes are torn down. I am honored to be a part of it! Go Teresa! You inspire me.

[This is the steel tubing we sliced into the blades for the turbine.]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Headlight Resurfacing Kit

I bought a kit to resurface my acrylic headlight covers. The alternative was spending $225 for each light, or to continue to drive around with this cataract-like cloud over the eyes of my van. The bottom picture was before the treatment, the top picture was after.

The treatment consisted of sanding with 500 grit sandpaper on the end of a drill, then switching to 800 grit, then a wet sand, and finally a polish. It was four steps of successively fine grinding, and it worked pretty well, as you can see.

I was so full of success I tried it on David's contacts while they were still in his eyes. OK, not really. But I am thinking about trying it on some scratched up CDs. I'll let you know if it works.

Building Hydro Turbine Prototypes

This semester, two of my students, Teresa and Sean, have been designing a type of hydro turbine called a Crossflow turbine. This is the type of turbine we plan to use first in Honduras because they are best for "low head" systems, or systems with relatively small vertical drop.

Here Ryan is helping out by grinding some of the welds smooth. It's cool because it makes lots of sparks. But it's not as cool as melting steel with faya! Flame-on, baby!

We are welding with an old technology, an oxy-acetylene torch, because we want to test the manufacturability of building these things in Honduras, where more modern (and expensive) welding methods are less available. Our conclusion: it works swellish.

This unit will have 18 blades in total, but we're saving some for Teresa and Sean to weld next week. We can't let Ryan have all the fun.