Things came together quickly at the end for the Baja SAE competition. As a first-year team, we are very happy with the results. Many other teams, and even judges, were surprised at the quality of our design and our performance. I am proud of our students for not only getting this off the ground, but doing it well. Our placement in the various events are below. We placed 37th out of 94 teams, and we didn’t even know what to expect for most of these events!
T-45th on Sales Presentation
48th on Cost Analysis
T-68th on Design Report
56th on Acceleration
66th on Hill Climb
54th on Maneuverability
19th on Suspension Course
31st in 4 Hour Endurance
The SME student group has been busy turning a pile of tubing and parts in a Baja SAE vehicle, and it is really starting to take shape. As a first-year team, every step is a milestone, but some are easier to see. The whole team has been instrumental to getting us to this point, and thanks to some serious progress by group president, Sam Brennan, and vice president, Sawyer Bisker, who spent their Spring “Break” in the shop, the buggy can now stand on its own. It is going to require a continued commitment to get this ready for competition in April.
As much of the country is experiencing record low temperatures, we are doing our part to make it a little worse. We completed the first round of testing on our cryoindenter, which was designed and fabricated in-house for the Army Research Lab. We converted a standard LECO microindenter to test samples at approximately -170 deg. Celsius (so far). This is easier said than done as the atmosphere has to be moisture-free and the operator can’t lose fingers to frostbite. Needless to say, both were addressed and we can now move on to warmer prospects, including recent modifications to our custom Hot Press.
The past several months have been busy for writing, and several publications have recently come out. We still have several more articles near submission, and a significant undertaking on an invited review article was recently accepted for publication. Well done to the students working on those projects. Not bad for working out of storage area! Hopefully that will be changing very soon. The plans for a dedicated lab renovation are in the final phase!
The SME group has been planning to join the Baja SAE competition for a while now, but now it is official. The team is registered to compete for our first year in Mechanicsville, MD in April. Since we started this year without even space to work in, the fact that we have a garage, a trailer, a slew of new equipment, growing sponsorship and the frame is starting to take shape, I think that is good progress. The primary driver of this progress has been Sam Brennan, president of the student group, and the many students involved have helped push this forward in a short time. We recently met with the local SME chapter in our department, and they have provided a generous donation to help us keep momentum. Sam and Lew Baum are pictured below, as is some recent progress on the frame (we just got tubing this week!). For more information or to get involved (as a student, sponsor, mentor, etc.), see the SME group’s Get Involved page.
Whether microlattices or carbon aerogels, ultralight materials are often perched atop dandelions or other plants to demonstrate just how light they are. Since the dandelions are growing like weeds right now (pun intended), it made sense to put some carbon nanofiber material on top of one. The material pictured has a density of 19.8 mg/cc (or about 99.1% air). The nice thing is that we can make higher density versions for applications other than holding down dandelion seeds. Check it out here.
Many of the alloys we create are very hard to compact, even at 3 GPa, so a little temperature can go a long way. We have just completed a self-contained hot chamber for pressing under vacuum, argon or any other gas. The heater is controlled using a PID unit similar to most furnaces, and the 40 ton hydraulic press is programmable as well. Topped off (literally) with a small vacuum pump and mini gas tank for argon, we will be putting this thing through its paces on projects such as metallic foams and nanostructured alloys.
You might think a material that is 95% air would be weak. You might think the rest being entirely carbon would make it brittle. You might be wrong.
In ongoing testing on nonwoven carbon nanofibers created through the CoFFiN process (see this page), we’ve found the material to be surprisingly robust and a lot more fun than science gets credit for. The videos below show that a little liquid nitrogen goes a long way, and a lot of compression is no big deal.