• Team OUFO

Will It Float?

I can’t tell a lie, my desk is not normally as tidy as this, but I wanted to make a decent impression when showing you where I work. This is where I spend most of my time, admittedly surrounded by a lot more paperwork and maybe one or two sweet wrappers...

I also have a Kanban board on the wall next to me, and a corkboard I spend more time putting samples on than actual notes, but it is how I seem to work best. I am an engineering student with the rather odd notion that I want to be a cyber doctor some day. So how did I end up on this project?

I like things that fly. They absolutely fascinate me. From the sycamore seeds that use autorotation to spread over long distances, to animals that fly, be it through gliding from tree to tree or over huge distances like the albatross, to the machines that we ourselves have built. I have lost a whole day in an air museum (while my poor mother in law has passed out cold on the grass outside with a book on her face!) There is just something magical about flight. It’s probably why we are all drawn to Superman when we are still young. We want to be amongst the birds just like him.

When I spoke to my brother about being on this project he asked if I remembered Bald Sindy. She was my crash test dummy for my early experiments with flight. I spent a lot of time perfecting the perfect doll chute, each time pitching her out of the window with different chute designs attached. I also attempted this with my wee brother, attaching him to a kite and running him up and down a field to see if we could achieve takeoff. We managed a few inches which thrilled him, but absolutely horrified our mother.

It’s probably no surprise to him that I volunteered wholeheartedly to come up with a parachute concept for this project. I have drawings in a pile to the side of my desk right now that I will be dealing with later on, and more than a few notes.

I asked my brother what he thought I had learned from my time with Bald Sindy. He thought for a moment and then said,

“Any parachute is better than no parachute.”

Good advice I think.

This brings me to the present, and our social media campaign. Someone asked me, flippantly,

“Could you make a parachute out of granite?”

I thought about this for a minute and I started to give a predictable engineering answer, and then I thought about it again. I remembered the Wil E. Coyote cartoons that I loved when I was younger, and I remembered how much I laughed when things didn’t work. I mean I could spend time talking about composites and possibly create something that would fascinate engineers, but every child in the room wants to see a parachute shaped lump of granite being thrown off a cliff. And so do I!

So, will it float? I think at some point during the next few months we are going to have to find out together, don’t you think?

We are also going to be trying out as many of your suggestions as we can, using our VERY talented and unbreakable stunt fox as a test pilot*, so please send them in to us. We will be accepting them on our social media feeds and there will be awards for the best designs at the end of the IMechE challenge in June.


*Our OUFOx was carefully selected from a crack team of volunteers because he is sturdy, floppy for ground impacts, has no bones to break (unlike us) and is also ruggedly handsome. It helps that he is also a toy rather than a living thing.

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