UVic mechanical engineering students Graydon Reed, Robin Megson, Carling Stokes and Sean Leese with the Formshift that changes gears without a derailleur. The Formshift is their capstone project. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

UVic engineering students use rocket science in winning project

Also witness the ‘tooth slider’ that will make rear derailleurs history

One doesn’t build a rocket overnight, but it will certainly keep you up all night.

The winning team in this year’s University of Victoria Mechanical Engineering Capstone Showcase was up until 2:30 a.m. on Monday fitting their design together. There were 14 projects at Monday’s Capstone Showcase, and the team behind the Active Altitude Control System won this year’s most innovative capstone award.

The Active Altitude Control System is a small metal apparatus about two feet long and 4.5 inches wide. It goes in a six-foot-tall rocket and it has three little arms that poke out to guide the rocket to the desired height.

“They’re air brakes,” said Simon Park, who designed the AACS with Josef Svorkdal, Ethan Hansen, Alan Jullien-Corrigan and Ben Klammer.

The AACS uses in-flight sensors to gauge how much resistance it’s little arms should create as it soars through the air.

“Of course everything fit together perfectly,” said Svorkdal.

He was being sarcastic. Rocket science ain’t easy.

“We designed it for competition, hopefully for the upcoming Canadian rocketry competition,” said Klammer. “Then again at the Spaceport America Cup next June.”

To win the competition, a team’s rocket must come as close as it can to 10,000 feet in altitude. Klammer was part of the UVic Rocketry team that came within about 1,000 feet of the 10,000-foot mark at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The winning team’s rocket peaked at 10,008 feet. (UVic’s team did win the payload challenge, a second category at Spaceport America.)

READ MORE: Tesla internship calls for UVic designer of electric Caboost

Svorkdal said the AACS won’t do enough to win a rocketry competition by itself, but it will help.

“You still need a good team, and this can make a good team an excellent team,” Svorkdal said.

As all the members of team AACS are graduating soon, they’ll pass the AACS on to the UVic Rocketry team, should the latter want it, Klammer said.

Some projects at the Capstone Showcase are ready to go into production, such as the automated mixer for food that will be fed to zoo plankton.

Industrial Plankton is a business in Saanich that produces zooplankton and algae that are fed to shellfish farms, shrimp farms and finfish hatcheries.

“A couple of us had already interned at Industrial Plankton in Saanich so we reached out,” said Hunter Arcese, whose team includes Jack Baker, Kristian Storgard, Patrick Heaney and Shaun Wilkinson.

One of the zooplanktons grown at Industrial Plankton are called rotifers. To feed the rotifers, an employee manually blends a dehydrated powder into salt water using a handheld blender. To automate this, Arcese and company instead designed a fully functional system that spins the powder by creating a blender-type item that splits the vortex into four and then pipes it into the next tub with an auger. A spinning magnet in the final tub keeps the blend from separating.

It will soon make work a little easier at Industrial Plankton, Arcese said.

There was also a design that will be much heralded in the bike community.

Called the Formshift, the goal was to create a different type of gear shifter, one that would work while riding up hills.

“I’m big in to mountain biking and I wanted something that would shift on a steep hill without the crunch,” said Sean Leese, who worked on the project with Robin Megson, Carling Stokes and Graydon Reed.

What the Formshift does to replace the traditional derailleur is use tooth sliders. They invented them, and their name.

“Tooth sliders is the name that just kind of evolved,” Stokes said.

The tooth sliders have a toggle that bumps them up and down the teeth of the chain wheel to add or release tension on the chain. They move when not in contact with the chain meaning the cyclist can change the gear in the throws of a steep incline.

“You can’t change gears on a big hill, it just crunches the gears. This doesn’t do that.” Leese said.

“We could build this out of steel or metal for a little under $500,” said Leese, noting avid cyclists pay more than that for high-end derailleurs and electric shifters.

Leese said they will keep developing the Formshift with a goal of bringing it to the retail market.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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