Event: Junior Solar Sprint Division: 3-5
School: Sally Ride Elementary Team Size: 1

“Be Water”

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

― Bruce Lee
Drake’s JSS car has a water drop shaped chassis because under the speed of sound it is the most aerodynamic shape. His original intent was a 3D water drop shell, but he did not get to completely print that design due to printer issues and iterations needed to make it function.

Summary:

Drake’s final solar car design was made using Tinkercad. He also created a prototype with LEGO, but he didn’t have motors to test it. His original plan was to make it a single print with all parts moving properly, but after considering the supports needed and cleanup needed it was best to make it into individual parts to print and then assemble. He received help using the 3D printer, but all of the work of building the design was done completely independently with occasional reviews and feedback. See the following short video for the assembled design view of Drake’s solar car plan and the separated parts in Tinkercad: https://youtu.be/rfhyPbqrs4A. With 3D printing issues, he decided to remove the top portion of his chassis for car that stays low to the ground. His original plan included a ball joint to let the solar panel adjust position. The car is designed so that all four wheels are moved by the motor for a better grip off the starting line.

Research:

  • Why do cars have wings or spoilers on the back?

Drake learned that cars have to deal with the same forces as airplanes. Here’s a great video he found during his research to learn about aerodynamics. It inspired him to want to build a car in the shape of a water drop. https://youtu.be/AXjiThF1LXU

  • How do we change the direction of rotation?

Drake found a great video about bevel gears and decided to use them in his solar car design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44eUqnOGxGU&t=64s

Complications:

Drake went through a lot of iteration in his design, which meant many attempts printing, and was unable to do a test run with the solar panel in place, but the parts move properly. He had to assemble prints that were successful enough, but wasn’t able to build a completely enclosed water drop shaped shell as planned.

25 thoughts on ““Be Water”

  • May 7, 2021 at 11:08 am
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    I love the design of the water drop and how you used a 3D printer to make your base

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  • May 6, 2021 at 5:05 pm
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    Thank you all for the encouraging comments! I’m Drake’s mom and I was his STEAM lab teacher at his previous school. I emphasized in my lab that the process of engineering is just as important as the product made from it, so he has a very positive attitude about his project even though he couldn’t get it to launch while on the ground. This summer we’ll be studying mechanics with some LEGO technic parts and motors and a couple of great books on the subject, and then I’m going to have him revisit this project to try out some new ideas and see if we can get it to take off. Drake has been using Tinkercad for about two years and always wanted to create a one-off moving print. He needed very little guidance from me to make this design do just that. He designed this car to fulfill his personal goal, but learned for iterative purposes it’s best to have separate parts that can be swapped out easily (much like a normal car, which needs modular design for occasional repairs). His full design would have taken over 25 hours to print, so we decided to print only part of the water shell and separately print the frame and other parts to reduce the significant amount of filament used for supports (which would also involve a lot of cleanup of the model since we don’t have dissolvable filament and a printer with the ability to use dual extrusion). With many parts and iterations printed leading up to the final car we submitted, we ran out of time and good filament to get a properly functioning product as required. There were a LOT of great lessons learned during his engineering process, though, and he will always have this great experience to look back on as he moves forward and participates in other great projects. Our family is so grateful he had this opportunity!

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  • May 6, 2021 at 8:50 am
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    I love the design of the waterdrop

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  • May 5, 2021 at 11:43 am
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    Hello, this is a Thank video from Drake for all of you. Drake is an amazing student that has been Launched this year. It was a very special year for him, and not only because of the Pandemic. Drake started this year as a 4th grader, a few months later he went to 5th where he is doing really well. I know that Drake will never give up!!!! 🙂

    https://youtu.be/PKqFeXASTAo

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    • May 6, 2021 at 5:08 pm
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      Thank you for posting this for us! Drake really enjoyed this project, and we appreciate you getting him involved in it!

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  • May 5, 2021 at 10:13 am
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    That is a beautiful design, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s 4 wheel drive, I’ve never seen that before. Is there a video of the car running?

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    • May 6, 2021 at 4:40 pm
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      I’m Drake’s mom. Thank you! It is a 4 wheel drive design. He was thinking it would give it better take-off. He couldn’t get it to travel despite getting the motor to run fast when the car was not in contact with the ground. We think a more rigid body with thicker printed walls would have helped align the axles better (we printed separate parts and assembled to be able to troubleshoot and improve without using a lot of filament to print the whole thing each time, but Drake’s design has tolerances to be a functional one-off print, which he always wanted to do). We also think a better gear ratio and more friction between the ground and wheels would have helped. After submitting, the family worked with Drake to come up with some ideas, made some modifications, and tested them. We got it to run even faster and more smoothly when off the ground, but we’d need to make some changes and reprint the frame to test out some different sized gears. A lot of the learning process was to balance how much material was used for iteration and making the design easier to modify in that process. We’re so proud of his growth on this project!

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  • May 5, 2021 at 9:21 am
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    I think the solar car looks awesome and I like how it is mostly mechanical.

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  • May 5, 2021 at 9:20 am
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    This is amazing! I love how you showed your complications and 3d print screen. Keep up the amazing work!

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  • May 5, 2021 at 9:18 am
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    I love the way you used the 3D printer, wonderful job

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  • May 5, 2021 at 8:50 am
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    I like how the car is made out of wood only!

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  • May 4, 2021 at 2:23 pm
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    I love the shape of the car. The quote is awesome! Great job!

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  • May 3, 2021 at 7:49 pm
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    It is impress this design! Great job!

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  • May 3, 2021 at 7:26 pm
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    Drake, I am so proud every day that I get to be part of your education! I’m sure we will get to test your design soon. Keep working hard your tenacity is exemplary!

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  • May 3, 2021 at 2:51 pm
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    Great way to lear about aerodynamics and I loved how he overcame complications. That’s how a real engineer works!

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  • May 3, 2021 at 1:06 pm
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    impressive project of a car. Wonderful job

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  • May 3, 2021 at 1:04 pm
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    impressive project of a car. wonderful job.

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  • May 3, 2021 at 12:21 pm
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    We live in an age that is currently transitioning to cleaner modes of transportation.
    This is a perfect project to plant the seed of curiosity in future generations.
    Also the complications it presents are super usual in the engineering field.
    The real joy consist in overcoming them.

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  • May 3, 2021 at 10:58 am
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    I am very impressed with this project, and it shows great potential. Very well thought through, both philosophically and mechanically. The use of 3-D printing tools is very leading edge. Some disappointing outcomes for the student, but a great start to a product that will no doubt be a winner.

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  • May 3, 2021 at 10:37 am
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    Very cool and I like the idea behind the design very much. Sorry, to know that you were unable to test your car, however I definitely see it happening in the near future and look forward to knowing more. Very proud of you, Drake!

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  • May 3, 2021 at 9:55 am
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    What a car Drake! Will be checking out TinkerCad for sure! Nicely done!

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  • April 28, 2021 at 4:03 pm
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    wow

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  • April 28, 2021 at 1:10 am
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    This looks like a very complex project. I really liked the shape that you chose and the reasons for choosing that design. I also appreciated seeing your research. I would have loved to see a video of the vehicle in motion, too. I hope that you don’t give up on this, with some perseverance I know you can fix the complications and get it working how you’d imagined eventually. It looks like the beginnings of a mechanical engineering career!

    Reply

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