Twin Tweaks ...
ture is an intriguing set called the Chaos Tower,
which is meant to be a fun and interactive introduction to physics. The Chaos Tower includes a
basic structure of blue cylindrical beams, plastic
connectors, and a track for some intrepid yellow
balls. The kit includes a multitude of ways to see
physics in action, including trampolines, to illustrate the coefficient of restitution and vertical
loops to demonstrate centripetal force. The Chaos
Tower forms the foundation for the COSMOS
kinetic sculptures, and the students are given the
task of automating the sculptures.
Two examples that we provided to kick-start
their imaginations were a moving trampoline and
moving basket. The trampoline used a random
number generator to change positions to bounce
a ball into one of three baskets. The moving basket used data from a speed sensor to change its
position to catch balls approaching at different
To supplement the basic kit, we provided the
students with the speed sensors, servo motors,
potentiometers, switches, and generous amounts
of acrylic for use with the Lasercamm.
These Pretzels Are Making
For the purposes of the kinetic sculpture project, the students of Cluster 2 were divided into
five teams of four and one team of three. For
Week 2, students were tasked with building a
mini-sculpture that used at least one sensor and
one actuator. To aid in the designing and building
of the mini-sculptures, students were given instruc-
CIRQUE DU GEISEL BY THE BOYZ IN DA HOOD.
tion in physics by Brinn and programming by Dr.
de Callafon. But as any good project manager
knows, the brainstorming process can be a tumultuous and unruly tempest, so Dr. Delson sought to
provide some guidance with teamwork and prototyping exercises. Teamwork was solidified with the
classic Oreo cookie tower exercise (building the
highest tower possible out of Oreo cookies); brainstorming required drawing ideas out on paper and
risk reduction activities.
Risk reduction exercises were essential for the
COSMOS program because the compressed schedule forced students to make quick design decisions. To test the feasibility of their designs, the
teams were equipped with foam core boards and
a working knowledge of the Lasercamm. Many
ideas for basket mounts and servo arms proved
fruitful, but perhaps the best discoveries were of
BLUE STEEL’S LEARNING SCULPTURE.
74 SERVO 01.2010
TEAM MAGNUM’S DIVERGING PATHS.
A STEEP SLALOM AND GRADUAL
SLIDE BY WETHE QUEENS.