Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Latest Race Results

Last night, being Wednesday night, was RC race night!! I always have so much fun at RC race night. Even when the car breaks you have a good time.

The races are organized as follows. Three rounds are run, two qualifiers and one main. Your best time in either qualifier determines your starting position in the main. Different classes are run to separate drivers of different skill levels and cars of different capabilities. I race in Novice right now and soon I'll graduate to Stock Truck, then the next step is to Modified Truck, but I don't think I'll ever go that far because of the required substantial investment in the car. There are also the same classes for buggies and in the novice class the buggies and trucks race together. Racing Novice and Stock Truck is good because I can get away with the budget car set up and still be competitive.

Last night I tried something new. I changed my gearing from 3.52:1 to 4:1 and it turned out to work very well. It might still be a little low, though. Sometimes I'd hit the straight away, and when I applied the throttle I got after it a little too much resulting in some fishtailing.

I also had to deal with two breaks. Well, only one break and what I guess you would call a come-apart. Somehow I have this particular part on the car that a nylon locknut keeps coming apart. It's in the steering, so it can have bad consequences. Anyway, in the second round I was in a strong second and this part came apart. What rotten luck. When the results came out I was only 0.07 average mile per hour behind the leader. Dang.

The actual break happened in the Main. Of course. As if that wasn't bad enough it also happened when I was leading by about 1/4 lap. Double dang. It was a ball stud. I hit the wall, but I was surprised that it broke because I've hit the wall much harder without breaking anything. Unfortunately, when the stud broke, the threaded part stayed in the hole so I had to adjust my suspension to use different holes. If I break any more like this I will have to replace the rear shock tower. That's not a bid deal, though, at $5.

Next week will be a different race experience, though. I've decided to reorganize and consolidate my racing team. The RC18T is up for sale and those proceeds are going to pay for (drum roll, please) a BRUSHLESS SYSTEM for the XXX-T!! I really enjoy these races and they never race the small cars, so I decided to put all my effort into the big car. I've already bought it and almost installed it and I can't wait to run it. It's the Novak XBR system with a 13.5 turn motor. This is a budget motor that I can still race competitively in the stock class. It will handle a little differently from the brushed motor, so I'll have to take it easy until I get it dialed in. The step to brushless is a big one and this is long anticipated. The only reason it happened was Novak came out this this XBR sport system that is much less expensive than their GTB racing system, but still has the features I wanted. I can't wait to try it out!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Lawn Tractor

Yesterday I spent some quality time at Grandpa's house. He was having some trouble getting his new lawn tractor working so mom asked me to go see if I could help him out.

It didn't take us long to get things squared away, so naturally we spent much more time playing with the thing than working on it. I think that's how it should be-5 minutes of work to 30 minutes of play. Just about right.
You see, this machine will be used as a tractor, not a lawn mower, so Grandpa had to get the cutting deck off. After he did that there was some little safety switch that kept the starter from going and we just had to figure out which it was. Like I said, once we got it going, all that was left was to take about 30 laps around the backyard. Lawn tractors are fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

RACE 1000: Intro to Competitive RC Racing

Last night was the first lecture in the RACE 1000 series. I say it this way because I got schooled. Bad. Don't worry, though, I had a great time doing it. My XXX-T was easily the grandpa of the track and the only one there that was still using a brushed motor and an AM radio system.

In an unfortunate display of bad luck I also had equipment failure during my first (and what would turn out to be my last) race of the night. It was the steering servo. Basically I couldn't point the truck in the direction I wanted it to go. I've never hit so many walls in my life. I had an extra at home. Lotta good it does me there.

the guys out at the track are nice, though. They were very helpful about telling me what to do to get ready to race. I also became aquainted with another guy that showed me some valuable things about how to set the truck up to improve the handling. Next time I race I think I'll be able to do much better.

Tooling around in the backyard with RC's is fun, but having a track and competing in races is so much better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yeah for Graduation Ceremonies!

Well, I finally graduated. I'm doing this long enough after the end of the semester that I've also gotten the last of my grades, so I'll talk about that a little too.

Graduation day was really fun. It was a great chance to hang out with my wife, my parents, and my wife's parents for the day. In the morning I had to line up to march with my class. There were so many graduates that it took me a while to find some buddies to sit with. I didn't want to spend that whole ceremony with nobody to chat with. The main speaker was Mario Capecchi, who was honored this year with the Nobel Prize for his research in mamalian diseases. He spoke mostly on curbing the amount of CO and CO2 that humans dump into the atmoshpere every day. The University is making a huge deal out of this guy. They gave him another honorary degree and named a street after him and he's the kind of guy that seems to be more happy by himself in the lab than constantly being in the spotlight. He did make some good points about global awareness.

For lunch we walked down to the Union. I thought it was going to be very crowded, but I was wrong. There was less than a handful of others around. I had some chinese which was delicious. After lunch we went to the bookstore and took advantage of the graduation day sale they were having. I bought a new hoody and Chelsea bought some new lounge pants. Mom also bought us some stuff which was great.

After the bookstore we headed back up to the Hunstman Center where the engineering commencement was going to start. The previous graduation was still going on so we walked around for a while. Pretty soon it was time for me to head to the tunnel and get ready to line up to march. That was fun because I got to hang out with all my buddies from school. We took a bunch of pictures together and just spent time congratulating each other and ourselves. Commencement is really the time for us to celebrate together. I saw guys that I've known since way back in the day at Salt Lake Community College. It's been a long time coming, but I never regret the expense, the effort, or the difficulties I had to overcome to complete the process. Actually, the opposite is true. I'm glad for everything I went through during school. Without the process I coudn't have developed the skills I have now. My life is richer for the knowledge gained. I often say that engineering school has ruined me because I can't look at anthing the same way. The simplest of things inspire curiosity in my mind. Before school an airplane was fascinating, now it's completely mind-boggling, even though I much better understand the principles that make it work.

The next adventure in store for me is to learn about how gigantic navy ships are powered by nuclear reactors. All of science is simple principles and engineering is applying those simple principles in systems with others to accomplish great things. This is a great time to be an engineer.

New Car Body

If you read my last post you would know that I have been thinking abou how I was going to paint my new RC car body. The one I had was the one that comes on the ready to run version, but the car no longer qualifies as ready to run since I've put many different upgrades in it. I wanted to update the look and seperate it from the ready to run cars.

I decided on a paint mask from a company called XXX Main called Tribal Flames which results in a neat three color design. Also from the previous post, I didn't have an airbrush for adding some extra depth to the design, but I'm still happy with the results. Here it is:

Pretty neat, huh.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back to RC, Etc.

Society has some mixed up priorities. For instance, I've been trained to think that when school is in session, I should be spending more time studying and otherwise fulfilling my scholastic obligations instead of racing RC cars. Go figure. Fortunately, school is not always in session and I can spend some time playing.

I decided my big car (Losi XXX-T) needs some stuff that I didn't get a chance to get for it last year, including some new turnbuckles and a new body. The new body is fun because it means a rare opportunity to exercise my inner artist. There are many cool effects that can be done with these car bodies. The interesting thing is that they are clear and you paint them from the inside so you have to reverse the order of painting the design. This also make the finish look great. That ultra glossy shine is automatic since it's showing through clear plastic. This will be my second attempt at car body painting; my first resulted in a really neat paint job on my little car (Associated RC18T). The current cosmetic state of these cars is depicted well by this pic on an old post. ("My Racing Team Grows by One", June 2007) You can't really tell from the pic, but the big car's body is a little trashed. It's got a couple of tears and some hole and it's in a general state of disrepair.

So as I said, this gives me a chance to exercise my inner artist. I've decided to try some different techniques and masking systems to see if I can get better results than in the past. As a kid I build many plastic models and I never really got very good at it. I always had a hard time keeping the paint from bleeding under the masking tape and getting a good finish, but I think I have many strategies to avoid this. For one thing, I ponied up and bought good masking material. If you have to measure something, then the measurement is only as good as the measuring tape, and this is a similar situation. For masking I will be using special low tack masking tape made by Tamiya for modelers and vinyl masking material that is used by professional sign and graphics people. This last stuff comes from the roll end department of a local plastic supply on a 30" wide roll, so I can have nice big pieces to make a design then transfer it to the workpart. When I was younger I didn't even know this stuff existed. I'm excited to try it.

This same inner artist had an affair with an airbrush about 12 years ago too. I took a few classes from a guy named Chad Bailey, who is an extremely talented artist. (My claim to fame with his work is he used my airbrush for some background fading on one of his paintings, "Where Eagles Play".) Airbrushing is really fun, but I didn't stick with it for many reasons. For one thing, my parents weren't willing to allow me space in the house for it since it requires some kind of spray area inside. This continues to be a good reason why I still don't do it. I also sold my airbrush since I never used it.

At this point (if you are still reading) you may be asking yourself, "what it the world does airbrush have to do with RC car?" The answer is simple, airbrushes are the key tool for getting great car body finishes. (Here's an example.) Only a limited amount of paint for this application is available in rattle spray cans. If I had an airbrush I would be able to use dozens more colors and using the colors that are available I could mix other paint colors. Have you ever tried mixing two spray cans together? If you are really good you can mix it by applying light coats of the colors you want to mix, but this isn't nearly as consistent.

Anyway, I'm excited to try some new things.