Education

The CrossBow – Our Best Backyard Roller Coaster Yet

It was a fantastic, exciting, crazy day at Jeff and Abraham’s house. Lyle and I got up early, loaded the CrossBow Cart onto the back of the car, and drove over to Jeff’s house for one last test of the whole thing!

As you’ll see from the early part of the video, Our Best Backyard Roller Coaster Yet didn’t come off without a hitch or two. First of all, the track in turn one is a little too wide to accommodate the wheel assembly design on the CrossBow Cart. So, the wheels would pinch and slow the cart almost to a stop on entering the turn. Not the best result, especially in the first turn of the first test. I don’t mind saying, things got a little tense when we first saw that issue.

The rest of the ride was fantastic. Turns two and three are smooth, fast and strong. Jeff, Rob and the rest of the construction team did a great job.

At the end of the day, we decided to narrow the track by about half an inch in turn one. That way, the cart wont encounter too much friction. I’m also going to adjust the main wheels outward a bit so there’s no chance that the big long board wheels contact the 2×4 ties at any point. This will reduce bumps and noise and it’ll make the thing faster still.

All told, Lyle and I are thrilled with this coaster. Next week, if we’ve got time, we’re going back to my house to do some testing on The Caution Zone, which is the coaster we built in our yard. So, please stay tuned for that!

Thanks for watching!
Best,
Will

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Mentos And Coke With EepyBird

I caught up with Fritz and Steve from EepyBird.com the other day at Maker Faire 2014, and boy did they have some fun! I got to spend a little time with Steve, who taught me just why Mentos and Diet Coke make such an amazing combination, and we managed to get a pretty good video of the whole thing.

The main thing that makes the whole thing work so well is called nucleation. That’s the process of forming an actual nucleus. Ions, atoms, or molecules arrange in a pattern similar to that of a crystalline solid. Then, the carbon dioxide from the soda collects around that area. Stick your finger in a glass of soda, and the bubbles that attach to your finger are doing it because of nucleation.

Mentos have a lot of surface area, which means lots of bubbles can form on the surface. That’s why they make so much foam. They are also heavy, so Mentos sink to the bottom of the bottle, allowing them to mix with as much carbon dioxide-rich soda as possible.

The result? THIS AWESOME SHOW!

 

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Negative Afterimage, How Your Brain Colors Your World

WillNeg

Your Brain Wants To Make Your World Make Sense

When you do this simple experiment, here’s what’s happening. Your brain is creating a Negative Afterimage. When you stare at the negative image, the photoreceptors, which are the parts of your eyes that “receive light” get overstimulated and fatigued (tired), which causes them to lose sensitivity. In regular situations, you don’t even notice this because the little movements of your eyes keep your cone cells, one of the two kinds of photoreceptors, from getting overstimulated.

But, when you stare at a large image, the tiny movements in your eyes aren’t enough to reduce that overstimulation. So, you start to experience what is known as a negative afterimage. When yo shift your eyes to look at the white box, your overstimulated cone cells keep on sending the image information to your brain. That has the effect of “muting” the colors being transmitted.

Then the photoreceptors that aren’t overstimulated start to send strong signals that are the opposite of the colors you were seeing before. I know, it’s a little confusing. The result is that your brain, wanting to make sense of your world for you, sees these afterimage signals as the opposite colors. A negative of a negative, as it were. This creates a color image of the negative you were staring at.

How Cool Is That!

 

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Roller Coaster Stick Bomb


This was So Much Fun!

When I saw my first stick bomb on YouTube, I just had to make one! It took a few weeks to get all the pieces in place. Finding the time, the sticks, and figuring out the best place to put it. In the end, we decided that the only thing more fun than a stick bomb would be a Roller Coaster Stick Bomb! So, that’s just what we did.

I hope you enjoy this awesome ride!

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Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Love?

HAPPY NEWS! We’re Back Online!

Please subscribe anyway, though. Ok? :)

Well we did it! We’ve managed to crash the website with our enthusiasm for physics family and fun!

But that’s okay. I’m perfectly happy to sacrifice a few web servers for the cause. While we’re getting things sorted out, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. That way I can let you know when the site is back up and we can share all sorts of awesome cool fun and exciting educational and awesome things with all of you. Thank you so much for watching thank you for being here and thank you for helping me bring physics family and fun to kids everywhere

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Steel Wheel Assembly With Multi-Axis Steering

Here is the latest test of the new Steel Wheel Assembly, which I’ve taken to calling The Steel Wheels. I’m also using the term Multi-Axis Steering to describe how the design is coming together. For this design, both the front and back axles will steer on their respective longitudinal axes. This means that if you were to extend an imaginary line from the axle towards the inside of the turn, both sets of wheels will always run perpendicular to the center of whatever curve they’re traveling through. This reduces friction as well as load on the track and the cart, allowing the cart to make better use of its potential and kinetic energy.

The other part of the Multi-Axis Steering system is where the design allows each axle to rotate independently on the longitudinal axis of the cart. That means when the track starts to bank one way or another, the front wheels will bank independently from the back wheels. The same goes for the back wheels. This is a great improvement over the original cart, which only had longitudinal steering in front. Watching the new design negotiate banks and turns shows an amazing difference.

Now, I know that Multi-Axis Steering isn’t exactly groundbreaking technology.  What’s exciting about this particular application is the fact that every bit of this system, except the skateboard wheels and bearings, was built from scratch. So, there’s no shortage of satisfaction as this project continues.

Stay tuned! Next up, we’ll show you how we’re solving the problem of low-cost, high-efficiency lift segments in backyard roller coasters!

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Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two! The Truth About Steel

Why build things with steel? Let me count the ways! As we continue our exploration of backyard roller coaster construction and enjoyment, exciting lessons abound. Said differently, we’ve all got a lot to learn. The whole good-fast-cheap-pick-two idea isn’t new. I first learned this at a printing shop in San Rafael, California.

Yes. Once upon a time, people had to travel to businesses just to get things printed in color. Imagine the inconvenience and hardship. But, I digress…

Anyway, there was a sign which read, “Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick Two.” It was hilarious, and expressed one of life’s rigidly unflinching truths. We can’t have it all. If you want it good and fast, it’s not going to be cheap. If you want it fast and you don’t have a lot to spend, it’s not going to be very good. And finally, if you want it to be good and you still don’t have a lot to pay, you’re going to have to wait a while.

This lesson applies to backyard roller coasters in a big way. For most of us, we don’t have big budgets to make our projects come true. So, we work to find affordable materials like lumber and PVC for tracks, and usually, backyard roller coaster carts are made of wood. For Abraham’s project, we stepped it up a bit, building the cart with welded steel. It’s super strong and smooth, and it’ll be lighter than a wood cart. In other words, it’ll be Good. I’ve done a bit of scrounging for materials, and I borrowed a high quality welding machine in order to control costs. So, we can also check the “Cheap” box on our list. This means, however, that it’s taking a little time to get it done.
Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick two.

The video accompanying this article shows a bit of how it’s designed and hopefully gives some insight into the thinking that went into creating the wheel assembly. What I’ve found more than anything else is that it’s incredibly hard to resist the urge to start over with some new improvement that occurs halfway through the project. I’ve already come up with at least ten refinements we’ll incorporate into the next cart design.

Thanks for visiting The CoasterDad Project, and for helping us to share the joys of Physics, Family, and Fun! Please be sure to Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Tree House Roller Coaster Is Taking Shape

Boy, oh boy! The tree house roller coaster station is going up, up, up over at Abraham’s house while I’m back at the shop welding the steel cart. A couple of really cool things are going on this week with our tree house roller coaster project, and every one of them is a first!

Jeff, Hunter, Victor, Rob and I spent several days this week doing the hard part. Digging, sawing, carrying, mixing, hammering and generally working our fingers to the bone to keep Abraham’s tree house roller coaster project on track. It’s been super hard work, and super good fun. Rob is a great carpenter and craftsman, and we’re lucky to have his help with all this.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I’m design-building our first ever steel roller coaster cart. Working with steel is exciting and fun. The main difference between woodworking and steel work is that you can unscrew two pieces of wood. Unwelding, however, isn’t really a thing. So, measure thrice, weld once! And yes, I learned that the hard way.

In other news, we got noticed and liked and tweeted about this week by the nice folks at Edutopia! It’s an amazing honor to be recognized by one of the most forward-thinking educational organizations on Earth. I’d like to personally invite their founder, George Lucas, to come ride Abraham’s Tree House Roller Coaster when it’s finished.

The CoasterDad Project is getting all kinds of props from all kinds of people, and I can’t thank them enough. Please be sure to Tweet, Like & Share this post and the CoasterDad Project Videos.

See you soon!

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Abraham’s Backyard Roller Coaster – Part 1

The word is getting around about CoasterDad! In fact, Jeff has asked us to build a backyard roller coaster for his son Abraham! What an incredible opportunity for us, and for our growing group of supporters, and especially for Abraham, his family, and his neighbors!

The backyard at Abrahams house is just perfect for a “Terrain Coaster!” That means, we’ll put the coaster station in a tree house, and after the launch, the track will stay pretty close to the ground. This is made possible because the backyard has quite a few elevation changes. So, the whole thing will be super strong, which means it can be super fast, and super fun!

The first day we met with Abraham and his parents, we did quite a lot of math! That’s right! Math! We worked with Abraham to figure out all the parts and pieces he would need to build his backyard roller coaster. How many screws, how much lumber, how much pipe to make the rails, and so on. The thing about math is this. If there’s something awesome happening after the math problems, they’re not such big problems after all. Abraham knows that figuring out these numbers will get him that much closer to the best backyard ever!

Lyle and Abraham walked the backyard and talked about where the track should go, and what would be different and new about Abraham’s backyard roller coaster. We’ll be using stiffer, stronger pipe for the rails, and we’ll be making the cart out of metal instead of wood, and it will be more aerodynamic. This will make the cart lighter, which means it will be able to go faster and more smoothly. That is super exciting!

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project. And, if you’d like to support science education for kids, please check out and donate to The CoasterDad Project on indiegogo. Click here to learn more about that: http://igg.me/at/coasterdad/x/6558240

Thanks for visiting CoasterDad.com. We build backyard roller coasters to support and promote Physcis, Family, and Fun!

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