As I alluded to in my last entry, I recently spent about a week participating in a workshop at USC called Top Fuel. It was a week long design-build workshop, focusing on pneumatic structures, i.e. structures supported by air. We were led by Thomas Auer from Transsolar KlimaEngineering, and Achim Menges from the Institute of Computational Design at Stuttgart University. They are both very awesome people. You should look them up.
I have to say, I am really happy with the results. Our team of nine developed a structure we called “Pneus Bridge”, a covering for the south bridge between Watt and Harris Halls. The structure was designed with environmental concerns in mind, and uses the Venturi Effect to funnel air and cool the space. It consisted of 320 tubes divided into two parallel sets, each forming one side of the structure. All tubes on each side were fed air from a single manifold. The two sets were tied together at the top, creating something resembling a gabled roof, but held up by air! The only support are two cables that are running down the base of each side (that means nothing is supporting the middle folks). Not sure what all that means? Take a look at some pretty pictures!
It was insane actually making this thing, but we created a very straightforward system, which allowed us to make 320 tubes (all different, computer calculated lengths mind you) in less than 60 hours. All it took were over 600 grommets and over 2200 seals (every end was sealed three times to be on the safe side). And every single tube inflated with air on the first try. We took over the hall of Watt at about 3 in the morning to tie it all together and test it. That was probably the first time we realized how huge it was.
Even for me, it was insanely ambitious. And in the end, the whole thing was a bigger success than I could have ever hoped for. Now, back to a certain thesis project…