Episode 5

Waterfall elevator!!

For this challenge we had to harness the energy of the waterfall to lift a person in an elevator. The waterfall was at WET Design’s courtyard and was built by WET.

My bluePrint

I have to say this was the hardest blueprint challenge for me for some reason. I originally had drawn a waterwheel that was attached to the elevator, and as the water fell it would turn the water wheel and wind up the cable. I thought this was too complicated (turns out that's what the judges were looking for) so I scrapped that idea and went with a giant counterweight bucket that collected the water and pulled the elevator up as it got heavier.

After losing this blueprint challenge I realized that the judges are wanting to see our very best, most creative designs. We had gotten some mixed signals before: like in the Triathlebot, I reached for something very creative, but they were wanting something more practical. But after this episode I decided to be as creative as I possibly could be for the next blueprint.

Blue Team's Design

After a lot of hear ache over not being able to get the parts we needed for Gui's original design (filling a giant piston with water) Gui came up with a simpler yet still clever idea. We would counterweight the elevator until it is about balanced and then use buoyancy force to "tip the scale" so to speak. I really like this idea because is wasn't the most obvious solution and I thought it would work. 

To make this happen, Tom had to weld a 24-foot tower of aluminum column together and then we had to fasten lexan panels to the inside. Also we needed a base, a pulley system, and a counterweight. Oh, and a rubber ducky of course!

Spoiler Alert!!

What ultimately happened with this build is that, after ordering closed-cell foam for the buoy, we received open-cell. That meant that instead of a water-proof float we got a sponge. So, even though the buoy worked for a little while, it ended up getting saturated with water and sinking. I didn't get to go up in the elevator :( (No fat jokes please! :)

The Aluminum Welding Fiasco

This was definitely one of the most frustrating parts of the show to look back on for me. I don’t really know how to set up the story, so I’ll just start and hopefully it will make sense. Dan wanted to TIG weld some aluminum pieces together. I was pretty confused at this idea because Dan had proven to be pretty inexperienced in the shop, and TIG welding is a very hard skill. When I heard this, I asked, “Dan, have you TIG welded before?” When he said “Nope!” Gui and I IMMEDIATELY turned around and were like, “Dude, don’t even try! This is a waste of time for SURE.” I even tried to explain, “It takes days to learn the EASY TIG and you’re talking about learn the hardest TIG.” Gui also said, “This is the hardest skill in this shop, you are not going to spend time learning it right now.” Seriously guys, this was the last day of our build! We didn’t have time to learn new skills, especially one like TIG of aluminum.  It would be like saying, “Hey guys, on the last day of our build, I’m going to learn how to play piano!” having never touched a musical instrument in his life. We simply didn’t have time. Design something with steel instead, Dan!

So, both Gui and I had these alarms going off in our minds like, “Okay, he has no clue what he’s getting into, this is not good! Get him off this idea!”  Gui tried to assert his command (he was team leader for crying out loud) by telling Dan, “This is a No.” That didn’t work. So I said, “Go for it! Let him burn an electrode up!” Which Dan did, along with other parts of the torch. Dan stuck the pieces of aluminum together, but it wasn’t a weld (proven by the hammer test). Yes Dan smashed my practice weld with a hammer, but it was only a tack (one small weld) and I had already admitted that I couldn’t do it properly. Dan’s was an attempt at a full weld.. and well, you get the picture.

Anyway, this all sounds very defensive… please don’t judge me.

It turns out Dan was only wanting to stick the pieces together temporarily. In that case, yes he managed to use a $10,000 welder instead of a $4 roll of duct tape. Once Gui had said, “This is the hardest skill in this shop” Dan should have said, “Ok, but can I use it to hold something temporarily?” or “Could you look at what I’m doing?” I think if Dan had not said, “You think you’re the baddest in the shop” and disagreed with us so arrogantly, we could have all worked the problem and found a better solution.  Instead, Gui and I were thinking that Dan was really trying to learn how to TIG aluminum in one day because of his attitude.

I can’t say that I handled the situation very well either though. All I can say is that I haven’t ever encountered someone like Dan, and I wasn’t about to be pushed around and bullied by someone like that. So I screamed at Dan. A lot. And I'm sorry. Not sorry to Dan, but sorry I lost my cool.

Dan Sent Home

Whew! Let’s move on from that! I will say that I’m glad Gui sent Dan home. I know it would have been great to have another person in the shop since Tom was sick, but honestly Dan works very slowly and I don’t think having him there would have helped significantly. The main reason I’m glad Gui sent Dan home was because I had to spend some time in the column, which was just on the borderline of my claustrophobia limit. I didn’t mind doing that for the team. But, looking back, if Dan had been around causing drama (yelling, fighting like usually happens) I would have been in  “pickle” you might say… being in an entrapment situation and being overly stressed would have meant a really traumatic day for me! Seriously, there were a few times in the tube where the claustrophobia was getting to me, and I had to ask Joe to tell me jokes and funny stories to calm my nerves. I don’t want to sound like a big baby about the whole thing, but just given the fact that we were stressed enough in the competition, we were working our butts off to finish the build in time (and we were significantly behind), and I was now stuck in a tube for an hour, I’m glad there wasn’t also Dan to deal with!

Being in the column

I actually didn’t mind so much being in the column, though as I said before it was a little nerve racking. I thought it was cool that I could do that for the team. I was mad though that Gui didn’t forsee the problem and also that Gui wouldn’t let us reduce the amount of bolts we had to put in (I brought it up a few times). We just got lucky that the column design was big enough for me to climb through, and that I had small shoulders. It’s one of those things that I wish Gui had asked us about before marching forward with the design.

A little bit about Joe

Joe is awesome, y’all.  All you’ve really gotten to see of him is from Episode 1 where the stress was really getting to him. After that though, he became the most amazing, delightful, friendly, easy-going person ever. He is super helpful and efficient in the shop. If he didn’t know how to do something (as we all did except for Tom!), he took a stab at it, but then sought out help if it didn’t work. Often he would figure it out by himself though.  I am so grateful he was on the team for that challenge. He kept me calm when the stress got to me (in the column).

Things you didn’t see

I hit my head REALLY hard on the cherry picker… it made a REALLY loud noise.. Tom said he thought I was dead haha. I had a giant knot on my head for a few days. So I’m the reason we had to wear hardhats :P

I told Mike (the astronaut judge) that I had been in the column for an hour and that NASA should take my astronaut application more seriously.

Some selective editing

When I was talking about being in the tube, I did not say, “My body cannot physically handle this.” For that statement I was talking about getting 4 hours of sleep the night before the challenge day and being collapsed and sobbing in the corner due to exhaustion. Being in the tube wasn’t nearly as bad as doing all the work to set the build up the next day! It was a lot of heavy lifting and running around that my body just couldn’t handle after such a rough build. I guess it wasn't clear to the judges that I was exhausted because of the build in general and only mad about the way the design went.

Dan is a bully, Y'all

If you look back through the footage, you will hear that I said the exact words: “Dan you need to learn to respect people though, because we were talking about TIG welding yesterday, and you didn’t believe me when I said that it takes days to learn, that really hurt me because...”

Then Dan says, “Are you sure you want to go down this path… just stop talking now or I can drive you in the dirt more.”

I don’t think what I was saying elicited that response from Dan. I was making a straightforward, humble effort to tell Dan he was wrong. I don’t know why he came back at me with a threat. All I can say is Dan is a very insecure person and takes any sort of criticism as an insult.

Gui’s elimination

I knew it was Gui’s time to go, the build was just not planned out well. I think Gui is a great innovator and a great engineer, and honestly I wasn’t worried about his elimination because I felt he would get the wild car for sure.