Cupcake Cat to Space!

in StemSocial8 months ago


Who knows where kids get these ideas from... perhaps it was a combination of her love of building the Hot Wires circuitry and my introducing the girls to the ever hilarious (yet still educational...) Kerbal Space Program? Anyway, the older girl got it in her mind that she wanted to build a little aircraft/spacecraft to launch her little cupcake cat into the air.

She had recently been building a sort of propeller circuit, which when the switch was closed, the rotor would be spun around by the motor underneath (powered by the circuitry and battery)... and when the switch was opened, the rotor would be launched into the air much to the endless delight of her little sister!


So, like any great Kerbal Space Program venture... the first stage was designing an adequate spacecraft for the launch. We went with a very simple cuboid net cut from the lightest paper that we could find... we figured that the rotor didn't have much in the way of lift from the spinning, and so the lightest possible material components would be a necessity.... pretty much like every space program then, where mass is a premium and limiting factor!

To my slight astonishment, she already knew how to draw the nets that were required for the cube shape... I'm not sure what and how they teach these things at the Montessori school that she attends... it it is very different to the traditional style of teaching, but somewhere and somehow, she manages to learn things... despite the lack of constant direct instruction!


So, this would be the circuit that would form the propulsion system for our little cat launcher... not a particularly intricate or difficult circuit, but one that was well tested already and known to be under budget and within the launch parameters required. We modified the rotor with a little cardboard pad to make sure that we could easily attach the cat-stronaut module.

However, a number of tests with only the flat pad attached, to make sure that the rotor still had enough lift force to take off.. and to try and cut down the pad to as small as possible, whilst retaining balance. As any kid knows that has been on a spinning carousel at a park, if there is an imbalance, as soon as the rotor gets some serious angular velocity going... you are going to get either thrown off... or spin wildly out of control!


So, after a bit of trimming and balancing... we had the job done, and we attached the cat-stronaut module to the cardboard pad using the tried and true adhesive known as Blu-Tac! Then the little brave Cupcake Cat went inside... also held in place by a wad of Blu-Tac... no crash helmet and no safety harness!

My daughter insisted that we cut out a side so that the cat could look out (although, it would be spinning so fast... that if I was on the inside looking out, I would be throwing up in short order). So, a window as cut... a nod to aesthetics, which we all know is the bane of every engineer!


So, this was the final setup.... with the Cupcake Cat on board and ready to be launched into space... or at least into the ceiling.

Unfortunately, as many a practical person will have already noticed... and had completely escaped my more abstract thinking mind... this was a plan that was doomed to disaster from the very outset. The problem was the cat-stronaut capsule. As it was straight-sided and even more problematically, had a a cutout on one side for the cat-window, when the rotor started to spin up and get some angular velocity going, it would catch the air unevenly and throw the rotor off the spinning motor underneath it... so, it would basically unbalance the whole rotor contraption due to the uneven force of the air on the capsule.

This would have the effect of sending the rotor spinning and careening wildly away from the launching motor... to the great merriment and laughter of everyone who was gathered for the big launch (only mum and sister (and the builders)... thankfully, we didn't invite NASA and ESA...).

So, back to the drawing board... we are somehow going to get this cat to the ceiling... even if it means that we have to spend more father-daughter time together!

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