Jared Holladay

The Safest Model Roller Coaster

[Jared Holladay] is a computer engineering student at the University of Cincinnati and a life-long roller coaster fanatic. A lot of people look at roller coasters as an exciting example of physics, like potential energy versus kinetic energy or inertia, and rightly so. [Jared] looks at them and wonders about the controls. Video also below and there is a feature-length explanation with more details. Some Hackaday readers and writers can identify the components, so we think his coaster model belongs here.

Like many folks in this field, he’s built K’nex models to get a handle on construction. He’s toured STEM shows with the tracks and undoubtedly wowed kids, adults, and physics teachers, but since he can speak to the programming, he is a triple threat. Now, he’s growing out of the toy construction plastic and moving into 3D printed parts with needle-fine tolerances.

His latest base is extruded aluminum, like what you’d want in a rigid CNC or printer. In addition to the industrial-grade surface, Rockwell Automation sent him a safety programmable logic controller, PLC, and a touchscreen HMI. Our fellows in the industry tell us those are far beyond the price scope of regular hobbyists. But fear not; your Arduino clones will suffice until you get your first grant.

The point of all the ruggedized hardware, aside from authenticity, is to implement safety features the same way you would in the industry. The redundant PLC connects to inductive prox sensors to check train speed and location. Other moving parts, like friction brakes, have sensors to report if there is a jam. After all, it’s no good if you can’t stop a train full of people. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong. Just ask [Jared] because he programmed on-screen indicators for all of them and classified them to let an operator know if they can keep the ride moving or if they need to call maintenance.

Not all homemade coasters are scale models, and some of the traditional ones have more than meets the eye.

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Hackaday Links: September 5, 2021

Good news from Jezero crater as the Mars rover Perseverance manages to accomplish for the first time what it was sent to do: collect and cache core samples from rocks. Space buffs will no doubt recall that Perseverance’s first attempt at core sampling didn’t go as planned — the rock that planetary scientists selected ended up being too soft, and the percussive coring bit just turned the core sample into powder. The latest attempt went exactly as planned: the cylindrical coring bit made a perfect cut, the core slipped into the sample tube nested inside the coring bit, and the core broke off cleanly inside the sample tube when it was cammed off-axis. Operators were able to provide visible proof that the core sample was retained this time using the Mastcam-Z instrument, which clearly shows the core in the sample tube. What’s neat is that they then performed a “percuss to ingest” maneuver, where the coring bit and sample tube are vibrated briefly, so that the core sample and any dust grains left around the sealing rim slide down into the sample tube. The next step is to transfer the sample tube to the belly of the rover where it’ll be hermetically sealed after some basic analysis.

Did any Android users perhaps oversleep this week? If you did, you’re not alone — lots of users of the Google Clock app reported that their preset alarms didn’t go off. Whether it was an actual issue caused by an update or some kind of glitch is unclear, but it clearly didn’t affect everyone; my phone mercilessly reminded me when 6:00 AM came around every day last week. But it apparently tripped up some users, to the point where one reported losing his job because of being late for work. Not to be judgmental, but it seems to me that if your job is so sensitive to you being late, it might make sense to have a backup alarm clock of some sort. We all seem to be a little too trusting that our phones are going to “just work,” and when they don’t, we’re surprised and appalled.

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world — those who hate roller coasters, and those who love them. I’m firmly in the latter camp, and will gladly give any coaster, no matter how extreme, a try. There have been a few that I later regretted, of course, but by and large, the feeling of being right on the edge of bodily harm is pretty cool. Crossing over the edge, though, is far less enjoyable, as the owners of an extreme coaster in Japan are learning. The Dodon-pa coaster at the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park is capable of hitting 112 miles (180 km) per hour and has racked up a sizable collection of injuries over the last ten months, including cervical and thoracic spine fractures. The ride is currently closed for a safety overhaul; one has to wonder what they’re doing to assess what the problem areas of the ride are. Perhaps they’re sending crash test dummies on endless rides to gather data, a sight we’d like to see.

And finally, you may have thought that phone phreaking was a thing of the past; in a lot of ways, you’d be right. But there’s still a lot to be learned about how POTS networks were put together, and this phone switch identification guide should be a big help to any phone geeks out there. Be ready to roll old school here — nothing but a plain text file that describes how to probe the switch that a phone is connected just by listening to things like dial tones and ring sounds. What’s nice is that it describes why the switches sound the way they do, so you get a lot of juicy technical insights into how switches work.

3D Printed Roller Coaster Looks Pretty Darn Fun

Rollercoasters are great fun if you can deal with the exhilaration without throwing up or otherwise screaming until you pass out. Of course, the big outdoors ones are a little hard to get to at the moment, what with a pandemic raging outside. However, [3d_coasters] has built a tabletop design that, while it’s too small to ride, is nonetheless quite impressive. (Video, embedded below.)

The coaster is of the launch design. It relies on an elastic cord that is wound up to high tension to launch the train up to speed, with the train then coasting around the rest of the curves on the track. The quality of the modelling is highly impressive, too. The doors at the boarding platform are even actuated to simulate riders boarding the train! Everything is controlled by an Arduino, a handful of micro servos, and a DC motor.

As you might imagine, this project didn’t happen overnight. 600 hours were logged in Fusion 360 developing the track, and slicing the models in Cura for 3D printing took a further 5 hours. The actual printing process itself took 800 hours, not including finishing, so this project certainly isn’t one for the faint of heart. The final model weighs a full 30 lbs.

Believe it or not, we’ve featured 3D printed rollercoasters before, too. Video after the break.

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Roller Coaster Tycoon IRL

Additive manufacturing has come a long way, but surely we’re not at the point where we can 3D-print a roller coaster, right? It turns out that you can, as long as 1/25th scale is good enough for you.

Some people build model railroads, but [Matt Schmotzer] has always had a thing for roller coasters. Not content with RollerCoaster Tycoon, [Matt] decided to build an accurate and working model of Invertigo, a boomerang coaster at King’s Park, the coaster nirvana in Cincinnati, Ohio. Covering a sheet of plywood and standing about 3′ tall, [Matt]’s model recreates the original in painstaking detail, from the supporting towers and bracing to the track sections themselves. It appears that he printed everything in sections just like the original was manufactured, with sections bolted together. Even though all the parts were sanded and vapor smoothed, the tracks themselves were too rough to use, so those were replaced with plastic tubing. But everything else is printed, and everything works. An Arduino Mega controls the lift motors, opens and closes the safety bars on the cars, and operates the passenger gates and drop floor in the station. The video below shows it in action.

Fancy a coaster of your own, but want something a little bigger? We understand completely.

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Ball Run Gets Custom Sound Effects

Building a marble run has long been on my project list, but now I’m going to have to revise that plan. In addition to building an interesting track for the orbs to traverse, [Jack Atherton] added custom sound effects triggered by the marble.

I ran into [Jack] at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics booth at Maker Faire. That’s a mouthful, so they usually go with the acronym CCRMA. In addition to his project there were numerous others on display and all have a brief write-up for your enjoyment.

[Jack] calls his project Leap the Dips which is the same name as the roller coaster the track was modeled after. This is the first I’ve heard of laying out a rolling ball sculpture track by following an amusement park ride, but it makes a lot of sense since the engineering for keeping the ball rolling has already been done. After bending the heavy gauge wire [Jack] secured it in place with lead-free solder and a blowtorch.

As mentioned, the project didn’t stop there. He added four piezo elements which are monitored by an Arduino board. Each is at a particularly extreme dip in the track which makes it easy to detect the marble rolling past. The USB connection to the computer allows the Arduino to trigger a MaxMSP patch to play back the sound effects.

For the demonstration, Faire goers wear headphones while letting the balls roll, but in the video below [Jack] let me plug in directly to the headphone port on his Macbook. It’s a bit weird, since there no background sound of the Faire during this part, but it was the only way I could get a reasonable recording of the audio. I love the effect, and think it would be really fun packaging this as a standalone using the Teensy Audio library and audio adapter hardware.

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Manpowered PVC Rollercoaster

Swing sets and jungle gyms are good enough for your average back yard. But if you want to go extreme you need to build your own backyard roller coaster.

This impressive offering uses PVC pipe for the rails. At its tallest it stands 12 feet, using pressure treated 4×4 lumber as the supports. Pressure treated spacers span the tracks, with the uprights — which are cemented in place — in the center.

You can get a better look at it in the video after the break. This is a parent-powered system. Strap you kid in and then use a stick to push the car up to the top of the hill. We just love it that before the kart has made it back to the start the child is already screaming “again daddy”!

It doesn’t look quite as fast as the metal back yard roller coaster we saw some time ago. But we do wonder how they bent the PVC pipes and whether they’re strong enough to pass the test of time (especially being exposed to the sunlight)? Continue reading “Manpowered PVC Rollercoaster”

Roller Coaster Simulator For The Redbull Creation Contest

[Dave] and [Martin], otherwise known as Ballistic Locomotive, sent in their entry for the Redbull creation contest. It’s a roller coaster simulator that can emulate the twists, turns, and drops of a roller coaster in your living room.

The simulator is built around a plywood roller coaster car mounted on a 2 DOF table. With a few first-person roller coaster videos and the speed, roll, and tilt data provided. Ballistic Locomotive had a functioning roller coaster simulator.

Of course, watching a 1st-person shot of a roller coaster just isn’t the same experience without the wind blowing through your hair. To simulate this aspect of a roller coaster ride, so the Ballistic Locomotive team connected a relay to the bullduino and connected a carpet drying fan.

Not only did Ballistic Locomotive build something awesome with their bullduino, they also manage to make a great ride for one of the builder’s son’s birthday party this weekend. You can check out the demo and a few videos after the break.

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