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"Ride" by Michael Cooper - My Favorite Thing From the Maker Faire

This was, by far, my favorite thing at the 2008 Maker Faire.

From Make's Description:
Ride is a custom single rider helicopter with eight engines conceived & created by sculptor, Michael Cooper. It looks like more like a time machine invented by Dr. Seuss for George Jetson than anything you've seen in the air (or on land) recently.

Michael Cooper is a sculptor who combines wood, metal, kinetics and mechanics with a twisted imagination resulting in beautiful, unique works of art that roll, spin, hop, contort and make people laugh while simultaneously scratching their heads. After 34 years as an art instructor at Foothill and DeAnza Colleges, he has now "retired" to his studio in Sebastopol where he spends his days devoted to sculpting, inventing and pushing the boundaries of form and function with a heavy does of humor.

I know the pictures don't do it justice, and it's really hard to see everything, but take a long look and answer this question before you continue: Do you think it does/could fly? (Scroll down below the line and look at the pictures.)


... did you look at the pictures first?


There are so many reasons why it can't fly that I won't bother to discuss them here.

However, the truly fascinating thing I liked so much was standing around Ride and listening to the conversations, and particularly watching its creator stage-manage the discussion. Lots of people wanted to discuss why they thought it could or couldn't fly - remember that this was the Maker Faire, so lots people here were builders or tinkerers (or at least thought of themselves as such). There were half-hour long heated debates about the tiniest of minutiae -- fuel line diameters and spiral exhaust ports, for example.

Periodically, someone would gain the courage to think about the system as a whole and would approach the creator to ask, "So it flies, right?"

He'd answer truthfully enough by saying, "Well, it's not done yet," and then launch into a detail, like the difficulty in synchronizing 8 engines; this would get the whole group rolling again.

Later Saturday evening, when most of the kids had gone home and everyone else was outside listening to a band, a group of particularly crotchety old tinkerer-types were showing off their smarts and trying to outwit each other. After one onlooker had finished with his unnecessarily loud pronouncement of "based on my extensive experience building 1/6th-scale steam locomotive engines, I absolutely sure it can fly," another of the group tentatively approached the creator, and asked the inevitable question.

Michael Cooper took his cue, dodged, and redirected into a discussion of how the transmission linking the 8 engines to the propellor was open, and the first time he ran it, he was probably going to get covered in grease.

I burst out laughing.

After they were all rolling again on how many cubic feet of compressed air the vehicle should optimally carry for its four pneumatic lifter feet, I quietly asked Michael how many people "got it" and how many people asked if it could fly. He confided that I was very much in the minority. Further, he got a big kick out of removing his name tag, and listening in to the can-it-fly conversations, too.



I really hope I get a change one day to work with Michael Cooper to design and build a gorgeous Ride-like vehicle for me, so I get the chance to answer the question, "So, does it really fly?"


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Mr. Rig It8 years ago
Art that is all it is, and an attention getter so he is recognized by others. I think it looks cool, and here is my say "fly no, sink yes!"
westfw8 years ago
I dunno. I took one look and decided that even if it DID fly, it wasn't something I wanted to fly IN. Relative position of propeller and pilot, for a start.

I don' really get most of the "steampunk" stuff. Admittedly, it LOOKS pretty neat, especially compared to modern technology that increasingly looks like featureless slabs of plastic, but the whole idea of going to all that trouble to build a (simulation of a) gadget that couldn't have worked in. Steam powered artificially intelligent robots. Too much WSOD for me...
. For me anyway, the WSOD of steampunk is part of the appeal. The unnecessary complication (Goldbergian at times). The artistic flairs. . I'm with you: I wouldn't want to fly the thing. In addition to the prop problems, I don't see any way to compensate for rotor/engine torque. . Practical? Nah - even if it would fly. Beautiful? You betcha! (An awful lot like old sports cars.)
WSoD Wall Street On Demand WSOD White Screen of Death (Internet) WSoD World Series of Darts oh wait, you mean WSoD Willing Suspension of Disbelief (literary) ?
Patrik Goodhart8 years ago
Heh - seems like you looked in exactly the same place as I... :-)
westfw Goodhart8 years ago
  • WSoD Willing Suspension of Disbelief (literary) ?
That's the one! Sorry; I thought it would be obvious in context.
Goodhart westfw8 years ago
Tis ok, Nacho used it too, so I had to be sure :-)
World Series Of Darts?? I like steampunk that works. The lack of torque compensation immediately labels this as something that doesn't work. -1 pretty thou....
Goodhart8 years ago
What a wild bit of retro-neo-mechanically abstract symbolism, I love it.
mwwdesign8 years ago
An elaborate prank at best. Make something that flies and it will be exceedingly more beautiful.
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