Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Post Drop Testing Ennui

Now that gorgeous Spring time weather is here in North Carolina I have been experiencing some ennui. I've told the team a few times but I'll go ahead and confess it here: I miss drop testing.

As I drive around town I find myself eyeballing water towers, sky scrapers and parking garages and critiquing them for their height, lack of pedestrian traffic, trees and overall ease of accessibility. I'm sure one day I'll be able to turn off the part of my brain that now sees everything through the lens of whether or not I could fling a payload off of it...but for now...I am stuck with this lingering fascination with secluded high places.

We started our drop testing at the DTCC Orange County Campus after a few weird emails to get permission. We emailed a lot of people. I even had Ryan email low rent hotels with large parking lots and bad reviews.

Originally we'd set our sights higher, much higher, 19 stories higher, but it's the oddest thing...most corporations don't want a bunch of nerds coming over and throwing things off of their roof. Something about liabilityblahblahblah...yawn.

So we made our drop testing debut on a very chilly day this Spring at OCC with one very bemused security guard. I've worked at OCC for a few years so it was kind of cool to have the opportunity to get on the roof. Is this a good time to mention that I'm afraid of heights?

 Luckily the team was very understanding and did not try to exploit my weakness at all. /sarcasm

We realized after a few drops that we needed to get more height in order to have more time with the chute engaged. Our team lead was not content to predict our rate of descent with a generic online calculator. He wanted to gather the data and do the math to make sure it all lined up. For that we needed to be sure we had time to observe the fall. We also wanted to make sure we were getting some force on the hull to see how our electronics would hold up. We knew it wouldn't be the same as having the equipment crash land from space, but it was still valuable in many ways.

We made the shift to a parking garage in Hillsborough, NC that had a few more floors but a lot more foot traffic.

The best part of this day was not the data we collected, although we did learn a lot of crucial information about our payload set up.

  1.  We saw how long it took to get the payload flight ready. (Forever.)
  2.  We figured out some limitations to our current sensor and wiring configuration. 
  3. We were impressed by the impact that the cooler could absorb.
  4. We had some success with our chute.
  5. We learned about the challenges of rigging the payload train.
  6. All the gingers got sunburned and sunscreen was added to the TURDS.
  7. We practiced with the radios and telemetry.

But the most important thing, in my opinion, was the team building aspect of the event. Nicknames were earned. Inside jokes were forged. I convinced some teenagers that we were modern day Ghostbusters. Lots and lots of giggles were giggled.

After all, this was the first time someone yelled, "TREEEEEEE!"

And while certainly not the first, this was probably the most memorable time Jimmy said, "That was magnificent."

We had some disgusting weather on drop testing days but they were always glorious. We learned a lot of new skills, confirmed our suspicions through testing, got comfortable setting it all up and taking it all apart and certainly made a ton of memories. 

So yeah, I have the drop testing ennui. They say that pain is art and vice versa so I wrote you a haiku about drop days.

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