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- The Orbital Mechanic in STEM Magazine
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exploring heavy-lift drones, semi-autonomous control, bio-medical engineering, materials science, robotics, smartphone technology, tactile sensing, anatomical recognition, noise suppression, emergency 3D printing, inflight drone re-fueling, drone swarm weather sensing, power regeneration, and animal voice recognition.
STEM Magazine, February 2022, page 28 – 32, “Check it out!”
by Kenneth Hardman
“Jake!” Mom calls out from the bathroom.
“Why is there a case of bottled water in my bathtub?”
“It’s an engineering experiment, for my middle-school science class.”
“An engineering exp…?” Mom pauses, then slowly inquires. “Let me guess, you are… trying to optimize… water cooling by…”
Jake enters the room. “No. It’s a water conservation experiment.”
“So…” Mom scratches her head. “You are re-using bath water by putting it in the bottles?”
“No, Mom.” Jake exhales a puff of air. “The water bottles displace, or reduce the water needed for the bath. You get the same deep soak with two gallons less fresh water using thirty-two, 8 ounce bottles.”
Mom now squinting, and still scratching her head. “Thirty-two? Do I have to sit on the bottles?”
“Of course not. Thanks to Archimedes’, the small air bubble in each bottle keeps it buoyant, barely breaking the water surface. They’re small enough that they should move around easily in the bath.”
“Oh!” Mom gets it, thinking through the process. “Who’s Archimedes’? Never mind. So, do I have to tell my friends that I bathe with plastic bottles?”
“Look,” Jake walks to the tub and picks up a bottle. “In addition to satisfaction helping the planet, you get drinking water storage, waste water reduction, less guilt from taking a 30 gallon bath instead of a 15 gallon shower, and reduced land fill, all by giving up your pride. And! If you get thirsty while bathing, well, they’ve never been opened; just grab a bottle. Oh, and did I mention the free reading material? The labels are waterproof.”
Do you know an engineering student, or recent graduate of engineering? Gift the book, “Engineering Stories,” to them to let them experience engineering right now and give them a head start in understanding what it’s like to work on a real project with a real engineering team. Order, “Engineering Stories,” at the following link.
Dear Engineering Stories readers, I am pleased that one of my engineering stories, “The Orbital Mechanic” is published in STEM Magazine and will be available to a large STEM and educator audience. Check it out and please encourage your friends and colleagues to follow Engineering Stories. Here is the link to STEM Magazine. See, “The Orbital Mechanic” on page 32. Best Regards, Ken Hardman
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Special “Football” STEM edition for Superbowl Sunday
Dear Engineering Stories friends, Thank you so very much for your interest in these Engineering Stories. I have enjoyed writing them both because I enjoy engineering, and I enjoy writing in general. In fact, at my regular job, I see myself in part as a technical writer because I’m always writing specifications, requirements, plans, presentations, proposals, and procedures. I enjoy writing whether technical, creative, or, yes about my genealogy. I have taken on the task of trying to make my ancestors accessible to their busy posterity by writing very very short succinct summaries of a key time in their lives. May I encourage this exercise? Those who lived on this earth before us, gave us so much, and there is so much we can learn from them. Take a look! Each story can be read in 90 seconds or less. And from one engineer to another, try writing some of these yourself, about your ancestors; it’s good writing practice for any anyone in any vocation, including engineering, it takes skill to write in so few a words. And each story is uplifting. Besides, you might find and engineer in your family tree; I did! Click here and FOLLOW my #AncestorClips blog. To help you write a short short meaningful story about your ancestor, engineer or not, I prepared a worksheet for you. Click here and start writing. www.ancestorclips.com #familyhistory #genealogy
(Continued from Part 10)
“I, I’ll try, but Kendall.” Katya said.
Kendall could hear the fear in her voice.
“Dmitry,” Kendall said. “Do the best you can from the Quad, son.” He and A4 had a terrifying view of the incoming rogue. “Do it now. Program the peak of the lateral wave to be right at the time of rogue passing. Becca knows the dynamics. Team up. We need a miracle.”
“Houston concurs. We are notifying all emergency channels of your situation. Good luck, Polaris.”
“Dad,” Dmitry said. “Becca and I are refining the polar equations for the satellite matrix.
“Dmitry,” Becca said. “You’ll have to sacrifice some gain margin.”
“But, what about stability?”
“It’s margin,” she said. “It’s there for safety. It will all be for naught if we don’t push it, use a global edit to modify gain margin on all parameters for the string of M-Sat values.
“Dmitry? This is Flight. We are receiving your parameters. Connecting you through to station control system. Ready to execute control on your commands.”
“Executing lateral wave maneuver now,” Dmitry said.
Kendall and A4 discontinued their cable descent, wrapped arms and legs around the nanotube firmly as the constellation and wing moved almost undetectably in a lateral direction.
“Captain Parker,” Houston said. “34 seconds before rogue collision.”
“We see it. Oh my… Houston, lateral offset is increasing, but very slowly. We are holding on. Here it comes…here it comes…”
“We are entering the Quad now,” Katya said. “Enabling Quad controls.”
Kendall held tight to his life’s work, looked straight down toward the Earth, toward the space elevator base where his family would either save the station, it’s purpose, and their lives, or lose everything.
“It’s just not fast enough,” Dmitry’s voice was heard over the radio again. “The frequency response is too low. I need real-time…”
The radio from the Quad went dead.
“Good-bye.” Kendall looked down again, imagined Katya, Becca, and Dmitry looking intently through the Quad upper windows at the station straining to see the last of their husband and father. He reaffirmed his grip when the station lateral movement unexpectedly increased.
Kendall’s space suit environmental pack hummed it’s moderate tone. The nanotube emitted its gentle fifteen Hertz vibration. The radio emitted static. His breath was silent. His heart stopped.
“It cleared,” Kendall yelled, his heart beating again. “It cleared. It passed so quick we couldn’t turn our heads fast enough. No debris, no impact, no shock, no sound.”
Kendall finally turned enough to see the departing M-Sats. “There! Look A4, 479’s reflection moving above the satellite stream and out into space.”
The radio suddenly saturated with cheering from Houston and the Quad.
When the applause died down, Flight broke in. “That was amazing, Dmitry, Becca, Katya. And you too, Kendall and A4.”
“Thank you, Houston,” Katya said, “Dmitry, give me that tissue box. NASA, you picked the right team for this mission.”
“Katya,” Flight said. “There must be a problem with your beacons. Telemetry shows the Quad still docked with the elevator.”
“Katya, Katya,” Kendall’s heart trying to get back to normal. “You came back to the elevator didn’t you?”
“We never left, Dad.” Kendall heard his daughter’s voice. “It was Dmitry. At the last moment, Dmitry went back into the elevator and connected with the station bus. It was just fast enough to…”
“Becca, Dmitry,” Kendall shouted. “You did it. You did it!”
Kendall then lowered his voice. “My Katya, you are the best. I love you. Now quickly, get up here so I can show you just how I feel, and show you what it’s like up here. It’s more phenomenal than we ever imagined. See you in three hours. Enjoy the ride up.”
“Sir,” A4 said.
“Yes, A4,” Kendall responded.
“We have a problem.
“You mean we had a problem,” Kendall said.
“On its current path,” A4 said, “by Newton’s laws, M-479 will reach Octans Station in 43 minutes.”
Kendall stopped. “I know A4, but one emergency at a time.”
“The Callahan’s are in danger,” A4 continued. “If it clears Octans Station, we will then be ‘running the gauntlet’ again forty-six minutes after that.”
“The gauntlet?” Kendall asked. “Where did you get that ‘idiom’?”
A4 promptly replied. “I found it in my latest download. A gauntlet is a…”
“No, wait, what was that message this morning… the gauntlet is thrown? SEPA? Grappler Sub?” Kendall resumed a more rapid dissension to the station. “Let’s go, A4. I don’t think 479 was not an isolated anomaly.”
“Dad.” Kendall heard Dmitry on his private family channel.
“I’m getting an automated status log from the wing suspension system, specifically the maglev field intensity controls.”
“What are you talking about, and why are you on our private channel?” Kendall said. “Why would the maglev send you a message?”
“In all of my software systems, I code a back door input and reporting routine.”
“Of course you do.”
“It’s A4,” Dmitry said.
“What?” Kendall said.
“It’s A4. That station vibration you had this morning?”
“Yes. What about it.”
“The suspension software log indicates that A4 transmitted a half Hertz field calibration wave into the maintenance buffers several days ago. It has a 24 hour period. This would explain the periodic station oscillations you’ve been getting. And it looks like his protocols have been changed too. Possibly to hide the transmission.”
Kendall paused his descent and looked at A4 without speaking.
“Dad,” Dmitry continued. “Did someone modify A4’s protocols?”
“No,” Kendall replied. “At least not that I know of. Wait a minute. A4 asked me about that this morning. But, if you put a back door in the code, could someone else use that back door to insert commands?”
“Only if.” Dmitry said. “Only if they got my password.”
“Dmitry? Does your password have something to do with knights, and the middle ages?