Katie’s Final Blog
I first became interested in BlueStamp when the co-founders talked to my physics class at school. I was so excited about the program that I signed up the next day. I was going to be an engineer and I was going to love it. But as the summer crept closer and closer, my jubilation turned into apprehension. I was excited about the idea of engineering but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no idea what engineering was.
What were mechanics, electronics, firmware, biotech and software? Which field(s) did I want my intensive project to include? In a nutshell, I was intimidated.
Now that I’ve completed BlueStamp, I can say with complete certainty that the experience of BlueStamp was everything but intimidating. Building my wind turbine was exciting, exhausting, frustrating and fun but at no point was I ever intimidated. Sure I knew nothing about engineering, but that was exactly the point: I was there to figure it out.
Throughout the last six weeks I learned how to solder, how to use a breadboard, how to create a circuit, how an LED works, how a stepper motor works, how to use an allen wrench, how to bend metal, and the difference between philips head and flat head screw drivers. The most gratifying part of the program was that I learned this on my own. The instructors told me what and where to research in order to understand a concept/part but I was responsible for learning about it. Because of this, I understand the material and will remember it.
My wind turbine was based on the design of user dustynrobots on instructables.
Here are my schematics and circuit diagram: schematicsandcircuitdiagram
Katie’s Final Project!
With the structure of the wind turbine built and solderless breadboard complete, the only thing left to do was to put the two together. I used shrink wrap and male/female headers attach the motor, voltmeters, and ammeter to the the breadboard. I then encased the base of the wind turbine in an aluminum sheet that acted as a mount for the meters and directed the light from the LED up and out the top of the base.
I’m very happy with the way my wind turbine turned out and I learned so much in the process of building it. Six weeks ago I was not confident using power tools, had never set eyes on a breadboard, and couldn’t begin to tell you the difference between a screw driver and an allen wrench. The hands on experience of the BlueStamp program taught me about mechanical tools soldering, breadboards, and circuits in a comprehensive, logical way impossible to replicate in a theoretical classroom scenario. The process of building the wind turbine was speckled with both rewarding and frustrating moments; the experience as a whole was fabulous.
You can see my final video here!
Milestone 4: Transferring the Breadboard
My fourth milestone was to transfer my circuit from a solderless breadboard to a protoboard. In this process I gained more experience soldering. Putting the board together–figuring out the different connections and making sure the wires didn’t overlap– was definitely a puzzle! In the protoboard I also added two voltmeters and an ammeter so that I can measure the voltage and current throughout my circuit.
Milestone 3: Wind Turbine Structure
After building a virtual, 3D model of my wind turbine, it was time to actually build it! Referring to both the instructable and my 3D rendering, I put the turbine together from the bottom to the top. The base and top structure of the turbine are two acrylic sheets held together by three 4″ standoffs. The sails are aluminum and held in place by two acrylic sail-holders. My main struggle in this step of the project was broken parts. I dropped one of the sail-holders, which broke into three pieces. Some epoxy and aluminum support did the trick, and the sail assembly went smoothly from there on. Here’s a video of the final wind turbine structure:
Milestone 2: 3D Rendering
The second milestone for my wind turbine was rendering a 3D, scaled model of the turbine on google sketch-up. The 3D model gave me a very concrete understanding of what the turbine will ultimately look like. The time I spent making the 3D model familiarized me with the structure of the turbine in ways that looking at pictures and reading instructions couldn’t.
Here’s a video of the 3D rendering!
Milestone 1: Breadboard
My first milestone in building a wind turbine was to create a breadboard that would light an LED when the stepper motor spins. The current generated from the stepper motor is alternating current. If connected directly to the LED, the light would turn on, then off, then on then off, because current can only pass through the LED in one direction. In an attempt to get a steady light from the LED, I made the alternating current direct current by using two four diode rectifiers and two capacitors. To avoid destroying the LEDs I also added a voltage regulator. As you can see in the video, when I spin the motor manually, the LED is steadily lit.
Kaitlin’s Awesome Solarspeeder
For my BlueStamp starter project I built a miniature solar powered car from the sparkfun “solarspeeder” kit. I learned to solder in order to attach the parts (two capacitors, a diode, a transistor, and a voltage trigger) to the printed circuit board. I also learned the function of each part in the circuit and how the circuit worked as a whole. I was very excited the first time I held the car up to the light and the wheels started spinning. Building the miniature solar powered car was very fun; everything it taught me will definitely help me in my main project, a wind turbine.