Jonathan's Trebuchet

In order for Jonathan to complete his engineering requirement for Cub Scouts, he needed to follow a blue print or build plan to construct an item of his choosing.  I looked around online to give him a few ideas and we came across the trebuchet, which I had never heard of.  We found a site that listed build plans so we decided to give it a shot.  We scaled our version down 50% to make it more manageable.  We used scraps around the house and Jonathan did much of the work (measuring, marking, cutting, drilling, hammering, etc.) as I provided instruction and assisted with the power tools.  It was a fun project that we continue to toy with as we work towards our end goal of launching a water balloon to hit the Wells' house :)

First step was to trim down a few pieces of PVC plank to the correct width.  He didn't operate the saw alone, I just stepped away to take the pic.

Next, we cut the pieces to length and angled a few of them as needed.

Screws would have been best, but I didn't have the correct size so we used extra nails I had around.

We measured and centered holes for the axle and Jonathan drilled them out.

Same for the launch arm.  One key factor was to have the long portion of the arm measure 3.75 times longer than the short portion.  With a 4' piece of wood, we determined the hole needed to be 10" from the end.

Jonathan drilled holes to screw in hooks for the safety / launch mechanism (an arrow).

At the end of the launch arm is a nail that controls the release angle of the payload.  I used the below image to show Jonathan how it works and how adjusting the forward/backward angle of the nail impacts the release angle.  The further forward the nail is, the later/lower the launch angle.  The angle will vary based on payload weight and counterweight.

We logged our launches to determine the average distance using different balls and counterweights.  Jonathan launched while Kaitlyn marked their landing.  We tested a wiffle ball, tennis ball and baseball and used counterweights of 5 lbs, 10 lbs, and 25 lbs.  Each ball was launched 3 times with the same weight to allow us to determine an average.  We found the 5 lbs counterweight was too light to launch any of the balls so we quickly moved on to 10 lbs.  A day or two later, Jonathan completed the math to determine the average distance for each, which are listed below:

                              10 lbs               25 lbs
Wiffle ball             13'8'                 29'5"
Tennis ball            21'5"                46'6"
Baseball                14'9"               35'5"

We launched the tennis ball with a 35 lbs weight and recorded the longest shot of 71'3".  Based on the known tennis ball distances above, we determined the average distance using 35 lbs should be 70'10".  This was really darn close to the actual distance so we felt good knowing our theory tracked right along with our testing.

Here's a video collage of the launches, some were successful and others...not so much.  Enjoy!


Dolly Sods - 2nd trip

I took a trip back to Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia for a 3-day, 2-night hiking/camping trip from 27 - 29 September.  My buddies arrived on Thursday but I didn't want to miss a second baseball game so I met them at the park on Friday.  I got an early start (departed at 6:10am) and it was a beautiful drive out.  Lots of fog going through the mountains, made for some interesting views.

I lost the trail at some point and spent about 20-25 mins walking through the woods.  I didn't mind being off the trail but I was slightly concerned about coming across a bear or mountain lion while alone in the woods.  Luckily, that didn't happen.  After a while I pulled out my park map and compass to determine where I was.  I used the elevation rings on the map along with my known general location to estimate where I was before plotting a course to get back to the trail.  It worked, about 10 minutes later I was back on the path and heading towards my buddies.

You'll see several pictures of the deer at our campsite.  Apparently we were in its territory as it was around every morning and evening grazing in the area.

Deer behind the tent.


Filtering water from the creek.  The cold water felt great on our feet after about 12 miles the first day.

Our campsite.  My hammock was under the large trees in the middle of the pic.

Another cozy setup.

Deer behind us again as we finished off dinner.

I never realized this but pine wood has an excellent smell when burned and gives off a crackling sound (from the sap) that you hear in traditional Christmas fire scenes.

Beaver dam

Our lunch break at Bear Rocks, the highest point in the park.

Our crew: Rob, Mike, Dave, and me.

Same deer with it's little one.

We heard a bunch of wolves howling off in the distance as we sat around the fire in the evening.  First time I remember hearing wolves while in the woods.  We went to bed not too concerned since we knew they were a ways off.  However.....around 3am I woke up to the sound of howling that was much closer to us.  We don't know exactly how close but they didn't sound too far off that's for sure.  I put my ear plugs back in and went back to sleep after a short while.

I always enjoy passing the large wind turbines in West Virginia and the whole mountain top is lined with them.  I'm guessing there were around 25 of these covering 10 miles?


Cub Scouts Campout - Fall 2019

Pack 1484 had their Fall campout this weekend at Lake Fairfax in Reston, Virginia.  Jonathan is a Webelos scout this year, which apparently stands for We'll be loyal scouts.  We were excited about the opportunity despite the known rain in the early morning hours.  We modified our camp setup a bit and borrowed a large tarp to help manage the rain.

Mike (Den Leader) asked me to lead the 3-mile hike requirement so I came prepared to walk the kids through that.  More info below.

After setting up camp, we prepared for our hike by make sure we had our six hiking essentials (first aid kit, water bottle, sun protection (hats), whistle, trail food, flashlight).  I printed a map of the park and had it on a clipboard.  Each of our 5 scouts took a turn leading the hike and tracking our progress.  They carried a compass and every so often we'd stop to check our progress in relation to the map.  They'd mark off major landmarks such as passing the end of the lake, crossing a bridge, or crossing another path.  This helped ensure we knew where we were on the map and what to expect as we moved forward.

We had a reference sheet that included pictures of poisonous plants, snakes and spiders.  In the pic below, the two boys in front were looking at the bushes to the left and checking the reference sheet to see if they found poison sumac (they did not). 

Cooper, Michael, Jonathan and Christian.

The boys spotted two small turtles during the hike, not much other wildlife to see besides a few squirrels.

They found bamboo near the campsite and they were carrying it around all day.

Below is the map we used with check marks at key locations to track our progress.  The green marker was our proposed path.

The boys found a small creek behind our campsite and they spent some time exploring it.  We were surprised to see small fish swimming around.

Scouts.....do your best and be prepared!   Christian, Jonathan, Cooper, Matthew, and Michael.

Mike was the fire marshal so he and Chris made a good, big fire to ensure we had a hot pile of coals to cook our meal on.

We don't have a picture of us preparing the meals but the boys put their own food in their foil packet and placed them on the coals.  Food included hamburger patties, onions, chopped peppers, carrots and green beans.  Jonathan put a bit of everything in and ate the whole thing.  This is very similar to the sheppards pie dad and I made during our camping trip when I was young.

After dinner, the boys met at the Pack campfire to perform skits, tell jokes and listen to a few spooky stories.  I was a bit surprised one of the stories was about Bloody Mary considering we're dealing with 1st - 5th graders...in the woods...at night.

After the Pack campfire, they came back to our campsite and we spent more time around the fire.  Seemed like a great time to let the kids start their own small fires using a magnesium rod and striker.  We collected all required material and I stepped them through how to prepare it, start it, and feed it.  Other than the cotton balls I brought to help catch the spark, everything else we used was from the ground around us.

Jonathan was very pleased with his fire, which he built up nicely.  It ended up being bigger than our main fire, which we were letting die down for the evening.

I was very happy I borrowed my friend's large tarp to help keep us dry in the morning hours.  I secured the rear part of the tarp with cord from the trees and moved the unused picnic table to tie off the front.  It worked perfectly and did an excellent job of keeping us dry and making for a much easier clean up in the morning. Packing up a wet tent with wet gear inside is one of the worst things to have to do!

We had a "back porch" where there was plenty of room to sit around and hang out.  This is where we spent most of our morning.  It started raining around 4:45am and continued until we left around 10am.

Starting to prepare breakfast.

MREs for both families (it was just us and the Wells at this point, everyone was gone due to rain).  We had the breakfast skillet, which includes scrambled eggs, hash browns, crumbled pork patty, peppers and onions.  I used the propane stove to boil the water, which you pour into the foil bag and allow to cook for 8-9 minutes.  It was tasty and warm.

We enjoyed a nice, warm cup of hot chocolate after breakfast. The perfect way to end an enjoyable camping trip!

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