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

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?"

Discussions

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Mr. Rig It

10 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!"

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westfw

10 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...

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NachoMahmawestfw

Reply 10 years ago

. 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.)

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GoodhartNachoMahma

Reply 10 years ago

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) ?

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PatrikGoodhart

Reply 10 years ago

Heh - seems like you looked in exactly the same place as I... :-)

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westfwGoodhart

Reply 10 years ago

  • WSoD Willing Suspension of Disbelief (literary) ?
That's the one! Sorry; I thought it would be obvious in context.
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Goodhartwestfw

Reply 10 years ago

Tis ok, Nacho used it too, so I had to be sure :-)

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Tool Using AnimalNachoMahma

Reply 10 years ago

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....

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Goodhart

10 years ago

What a wild bit of retro-neo-mechanically abstract symbolism, I love it.

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mwwdesign

10 years ago

An elaborate prank at best. Make something that flies and it will be exceedingly more beautiful.

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Geezinator

10 years ago

If god wanted us to fly she would have given us airline tickets.. whoa hey didn't i already say that about the flying guy with the jetpowered cratermaker strapped to his back?

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oakspoor

10 years ago

Dr Who would use this for an escape in Victorian London.

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Patrik

10 years ago

Yes, this was indeed an incredibly pretty piece of machinery! But you only had to look at the smallish propeller, the beautifully carved hardwood seat, or the seemingly cast iron feet, to realize that functionality was not exactly his primary design criterion... :-D Gorgeous though - must have taken a serious amount of work.

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killerjackalope

10 years ago

Is it sad that I came up with something like this before, except it was less pretty, even in my head... it's actually a very clever bit of scuplting though, inspiring to see how little get it, gives me evil ideas for connections in the art world here...