Monday, October 21, 2013

nerdy derby track 2013

So last year Milwaukee Makerspace sponsored a Nerdy Derby race at MLK Barcamp using a pinewood derby track. The idea for the Nerdy Derby stemmed from ITP's Matt Richardson's original idea for a Nerdy Derby (a no rules pinewood derby) held at the 2012 World Maker Faire New York and everyone at Milwaukee Makerspace was excited to build some cars for the event.  You might remember that I got into the action of building a belly tanker car for the MLK derby via a few blog posts and then ended up being invited by my Chancellor to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Denver and missed the event. Regardless, the Barcamp Nerdy Derby event was a huge success and after the wood dust had settled, members of the space started discussing building a for REAL Nerdy Derby track on the Google groups site. Ideas were kicked around on wether to deviate from Matt Richardson's original design or to stay true to it. Discussion began on who would take on the project as well. I volunteered the use of the DCRL CNC router and things started to pick up momentum once people started putting money towards materials for the track. 

Pete Prodoehl deferred to me on my judgement for materials and process and my team of students from the Digital Craft Research Lab got to work. Jon Broadfoot (now relocated to SCAD for Industrial Design) prepared the CAD and CAM files during the summer while we were waiting on money for materials. Chad Bridgewater (current UWM graduate student) and I cut the straight sections of track on the table saw. During the summer it was decided that Milwaukee Makerspace would host their own MLK MakerFest in October and that the Nerdy Derby would be a part of this large community event. As usual, I had a ton of other things that I had been working on and that had priority over the track during August and September. 

I got back to work on the track after the other projects were finished and put my new team of students to work on helping me finish. I cut the curvy track sections out on the CNC router and then I enlisted the help of John McGeen (undergraduate researcher at UWM), Dan Feldman (undergraduate researcher at UWM) and Aaron DeLanty (undergraduate researcher at UWM) for the assembly. My kids got sick with strep throat last week as we were putting the finishing touches on the track, so it was a frantic schedule to get the track completed. I purchased some railing mounts from McMaster Carr to assist in the support of the track and picked up some pipe from Home Depot along with a ton of hardware from Farm & Fleet. I stayed late at the studio several nights last week to complete the fabrication. All of my students were amazed at the scale of the track even though we were all aware of it's size in the CAD files. There's just something about the tangible object that can't be demonstrated through a drawing. The track seemed huge in the DCRL and it brought back childhood memories of setting up Hot Wheels track in my cousins' room (to the point that you couldn't walk through their room). 

Aaron helped me disassemble and load the track into my car for transport down to Milwaukee Makerspace, and John McGeen helped me put it together once in the space. Bryan Cera (former UWM graduate student and current Professor at Cardinal Stritch) showed up after assembly and he and John worked on smoothing joints, removing glue from some of the joints and sanding the track so cars would run smoothly, and testing. At that point I had to bail as I had to get to Illinois for an invitational exhibition closing and I ended up missing the race AGAIN. I'm not sure how things went as I just got back into town, but I'm hoping the track was usable and that there are some race tales to tell. Stay tuned...

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