19th Century Water Power

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Someone else might have suggested this earlier. If so, thanks for the idea.

A water-powered lumber mill is a possibility. A pair of fire hoses mounted about ten feet off the ground could substitute for a river (reliable water sources being hard to come by in urban California).

The teams would have to convert the water flow to mechanical power. This could be done by either a big old water wheel or a horizontal turbine (The NERDS showed that you can bodge a pretty decent turbine). In any event, I would not let the teams hook the hose nozzle directly to their machines. The goal is to imitate a small waterfall (typical of stream-based mills), not a hose. (For what it's worth, I saw a 19th century horizontal turbine in use at Hancock Shaker Village in Massachussets, powering saws and other woodworking machinery.)

Once they have a rotating shaft, the energy produced could be used for either of a couple of challenges:

1. Grind grain into flour. This could be done by rolling heavy wheels on a flat plate, or by spinning a plate on top of a stationary plate. This is OLD technology. The winner would be the one to grind the most bushels in a fixed time, or takes the shortest time to produce "n" bushels. I believe it is the simpler of the two challenges.

2. Cut a log in half lengthwise. Water-powered saws use either a straight blade that goes up-and-down, or spin a large circular saw blade. A really fast team could cut teeth in flat stock to make a long blade themselves, but the circular saw blade would have to be "found". Large saws now frequently use bandsaw blades, but that is awfully high-tech and the blade would also have to be "found". Combined with the requirement to make a water wheel, this would be a difficult challenge, but certainly no harder than the fireboats.

There are some neat scientific and engineering principles here: hydropower, converting rotary to linear motion (the flat-blade saw), how do the teams move the log into the saw, how does the grain get put into and removed from the grist mill?

I would love the chance to make the sawmill.

-- Rick

-- Rick Tyler (rick@raf.com), January 16, 2001


How lame of me, responding to my own post.

A cow orker pointed out that the sawmill challenge might be even more fun if the water-power idea was dumped. I hereby offer the suggestion that a sawmill competition using any power source might be interesting.

It would also be a fine use for that 3-liter diesel that swamped the Metal Medics in the rescue boat show.

-- Rick Tyler (rick@raf.com), January 16, 2001.

Hey rick, Here's something I sent in 2 weeks ago. I think it would be a good idea. Challenge Ideas......... 1. Trojan Horse.....Each team has to build a trojan horse out of wood at least 15 feet tall. Each horse would have a chassis and all the team must ride inside it to a castle type location. Then once inside the castle grounds, Get out of the contraption and capture a flag. 2. A Sawmill....Each team gets a 10ft long log 3 or 4 feet in diameter. They have to build a working sawmill and see who can make the best lumber. Maybe each team would have the challenge of coming up with 4-2x4's and 3- 4x4s- and 2-2x6s....Something like that???

-- Duane Flatmo, Art Attack (flatmo@humboldt1.com), January 16, 2001.

I like the water power part best as there could be two types of machines. The sawmills would most likely be too similar. Maybe not though A saw blade mill and a band saw mill?!

-- Stephen A. Binion (Stephenbinion@hotmail.com), January 16, 2001.

Maybe you could use a fire box that was steam powered. I thought of that because I like steam engines, maybe using fossil fuels.

-- Noah Bentley (cindyrella@alltel.net), January 16, 2001.

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