Dyson recently challenged fifty of its finest engineers to a make a remote-controlled car from Dyson balls and spare parts. The engineers were divided into teams and given three weeks to build their designs before racing them at a makeshift track at the R&D facilities in Wiltshire, England. The cars had to navigate bridges, ramps and gravel. Many didn't make it to the end of the course while the aptly named Zero Tolerance failed to make it off the starting blocks.
The winning team was Drives, who won both the award for speed and maneuverability. We spoke to the team to find out their secret to success.
Tell me about your design, how did you make it?
Think Junkyard Wars. The engineering brief was to build a remote controlled vehicle out of Dyson Balls and a few spare parts found in Dyson's research, design and development department.
Our team all had ideas around the engineering behind our vehicle but what led the design was the materials that were available. Our overall philosophy was robustness through simplicity so that there would be fewer points of failure and less chance of problems.
On what basis did you win?
By keeping to a strict engineering brief our team managed to bag two prizes. The first was for navigating the track the fastest and the other for manoeuvrability. To win the manoeuvrability challenge our car had to successfully tackle an obstacle course made up of moguls, tight turns and steep ramps made from Dyson parts.
What challenges did your machine face going round the course?
Knowing the design requirements was crucial to our success. Before our design took shape we made sure we knew the course inside out. We quickly realised that the gravel and ramp would be our biggest challenges.
To overcome this we made a machine that had really good traction and had enough torque to pull itself up, whilst also being able to ride over the gravel rather than ploughing into it. The gravel ended up being a real sticking point for other teams. We identified this as a problem early on which allowed us time to test various materials and develop something that really worked.
In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?
Having a higher top speed would have been a bonus. The fact that our car had enough torque for wheel spins on the gravel meant we could have had more straight-line speed.
Our car wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as some of the others but with exposed parts on the chassis it allowed us to do quick repairs and modifications along the way.
Was there another team whose car you admired and, if so, why?
Team Weasel proved to be tough competitors for us. The team had incorporated the steering mechanism from a DC39 vacuum cleaner allowing them to glide around corners at great ease. It was fantastic to watch.
This story originally appeared on Humans Invent on December 19, 2012, and was republished with permission.
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