My short bio: Hi, my name is Ken Coe - I have a 30 year career in aerospace engineering. My background includes engineering assignments for the Air Force, commercial aircraft industry, several commercial satellite ventures, and lead engineering positions on the International Space Station; where I received honorary title “Rocket Scientist”.

I've been a speed aficionado my entire life, starting with rebuilding cars for drag racing when I was 15, and multiple engineering degrees later, becoming the chief architect of the 1000HP engine that powered the Double” A” Fuel (AA/F) Lakester number 9900. These days, my team races a 1934 Ford roadster, continuing to chase the land speed record of 220 mph. So far, we've reached 207!

My Proof:

http://i.imgur.com/GOIxKNi.jpg

6706 Land Speed on Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/6706LandSpeedRacing

Land Speed Racing: http://www.landracing.com/

6706 on twitter: https://twitter.com/Rocket6706

Southern California Timing Association: http://www.scta-bni.org/

KC-46: http://www.boeing.com/boeing/defense-space/military/kc46a/index.page

F-22: http://www.boeing.com/boeing/history/boeing/f22.page

Space Station: http://www.boeing.com/boeing/defense-space/space/spacestation/

I was featured on the show Land Speed Heroes on radX: http://www.radx.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=533:landspeedheroes&catid=15:catl#

UPDATE: Alright everyone, just stepping away from the computer for now, but I wanted to thank everyone so much for all the great questions! This has been a very interesting and fun experience.

UPDATE: I will check in from time to time and try to respond to any additional questions. This particular AMA was my first experience and I had no idea what to expect. I appreciate all of your questions and totally enjoyed this community engagement. Keep up with our progress on Facebook and if any of you find yourself on the salt flats during Speedweek (August 7th 2014) look us up.

Comments: 196 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

patanwilson16 karma

This is awesome!

Please describe the following:

1) A typical day at work

2) A really awesome day at work

Also, what is your favorite Sci-Fi movie?

And last, you looking for Mechanical Engineers?

Rocket670618 karma

  1. A typical day at work is atypical. I have schedules, meetings, and projects I work on. 80 percent of the time, it gets disrupted by a project in the field that needs attention. So if you have ADD, my job is a great place to be.

  2. A really awesome day at work is when a customer calls us up with a question that has really stumped them and we reach back into our company, pull all of our resources together and come up with a solution to help them.

  3. Mad Max

  4. On the pit crew, we're a volunteer team and always looking for talent. From a company perspective, Boeing is always hiring, and there are always different jobs posted on their career page.

s_mw3 karma

The man said Mad Max!

Rocket67063 karma

That is correct Mad Max!

dlatz8913 karma

When we 88 mph are we gonna see some serious shit?

Rocket670618 karma

My flux capacitor is operationally unavailable.

xvvhiteboy12 karma

Whats the biggest "Oh Shit" moment that you have had

Rocket670629 karma

The first year I built my race car, we raced it at Bonneville, and we went 172 mph. Took the car home, put it up for the winter, drained all the water and fluid out of it, woke up one morning in the freezing cold, and noticed rust underneath car. Apparently, nascar motors have a hidden pocket, where water doesn't drain on its own. The water froze, and the block of the engine cracked. Oh Shit! Time for a new motor. $15,000 later.

Pundredth11 karma

What was your first car?

Rocket670615 karma

1969 MGB convertible. I was 14. I brought it home, and my parents freaked out. It was a wreck, and they didn't think I'd be able to rebuild it, but I did, and then I was a 15-year-old with a car and no licence.

VallleyNL9 karma

Can we go faster?

Rocket670614 karma

It's only illegal until you get caught. In today's society, it's all about fuel economy. In Europe there are cars that get 70 miles to the gallon, and they allow them to travel a lot faster than here. If our infrastructure supported it and the technology was allowed to be, it's quite possible.

English_Rob1238 karma

Please tell me you have used the saying "It's not rocket science" at some point in your life.

Rocket670612 karma

Yes! It's an inside joke with most people that have worked on space programs in the context of engineering while we were working on the space station program and would caveat "Oh yeah! It is."

Loader943 karma

Awesome! What's it like in zero gravity? I've always wanted to experience it.

Rocket67065 karma

No experience there, but when you're designing long-term manned spaceflight environments, all of the muscle memory activities we tend to do on Earth have no benefit, and the body starts to atrophy. So exercise using resistance-type devices--bands and springs--is crucial to maintaining health for when you come back.

arkofcovenant3 karma

I'm an aerospace engineering student, and I've been fortunate enough to have a friend use the phrase "come on, it's not rocket science" with me, to which I replied "obviously, if it was I wouldn't have any trouble understanding it"

Also, do you have any advice for someone looking to get into the space industry? I had a point where my grades were kinda bad. I have a handle on it now, but my GPA won't recover by the time I graduate. Is it still possible for me to get a job in the space industry right out of school? Is it better to just take what I can get out of college and move into the space industry when I get a chance?

Rocket67062 karma

Everybody has a bad day, me included. I relate to your one-bad-semester scenario, and had a few in my undergrad as well. Yes, you can recover, and it may require finding the right fit.

danman12327 karma

Do you strictly just build these cars, or do you actually get the opportunity to drive them as well?

Rocket67068 karma

I do drive the car, and in fact as I was building it, it is designed specifically for my dimensions and body... helps me maintain my weight.

danman12327 karma

Awesome! So were you driving when you reached the 207 mark?

Rocket67067 karma

Yes, I was.

Loader947 karma

As petroleum is a finite resource, do you see any of the renewable resources for vehicles catching on?

Rocket67069 karma

There are over 1000 records that can be achieved for 4 wheel vehicles. One variable is engine type. Another is fuel type. We have seen vehicles with biofuel, hydrogen fuel cell, and electric battery power specific classes. A lot of racing technology is being brought to Bonneville through education, namely higher learning institutions. So a lot of the cars that are out there are being brought by universities.

Technology such as biofuel are one of the areas that Boeing in involved in as an alternative fuel source. We have demonstrated its viability on both commercial and military platforms.

bigKMA5 karma

Is the movie Worlds Fastest Indian in your top 10?

Rocket67064 karma

Yes it is!

Rocket67062 karma

It was a must see, recommended by friends, prior to my first experience. A lot of truth in that movie.

choboy4564 karma

How easy was it to transition from space craft to rocket cars?

Rocket67066 karma

We don't work on rocket cars. The transition from a space environment to a land speed racing environment involves a lot of similarities but a lot of differences. In space you have a harsh environment, predominantly because it's a vacuum and you have extreme temperature swings. In land speed racing, it's corrosive, and you have a lot of heat. In both, your assembling a system for a basic purpose, but each one is designed using the same principles and practices of engineering.

JelliedHam3 karma

Can I come help? I'm pretty handy, and I make a fucking delicious cup of coffee to keep you on your A-game.

Rocket67064 karma

Hey, if you can make coffee, you're in!

JelliedHam2 karma

Awesome. I'll be right over. Thanks!

Rocket67062 karma

If you make your way to Bonneville Speedweek 2014 (Starting August 7th) you can find us in the pits, or technical inspection. We will put you to work.

tuxedos93 karma

What is the best joke at your workplace?

Rocket67067 karma

What's the definition of an introverted engineer? … Stares at his own feet. What's the definition of an extroverted engineer? … Stares at other people's feet. Had to play it safe.

Rocket67068 karma

There was one good laugh while working on the space station, specifically the commode. Think about it...visualize, defecating in zero gravity. Yes the basic laws of physics state for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. First order of business is restraining the astronaut on the seat so they don't fly off while off gassing. Second order is make sure there is a suction device to keep the floating particles away from the body, and the case of space station a fan, but not just any fan, a fecal fan. Depending when the fan comes on and off The percent utilization is called a duty cycle and if there is a failure the Shit can actually hit the fan. Try writing the technical manual for that failure mode and fault isolation procedure.

SideburnsMephisto3 karma

I went out to Bonneville a couple years ago with a friend and his motorcycle and had a blast. What was your favorite moment at Bonneville so far?

Rocket67063 karma

Sitting in the car, waiting for the starter to let me go, and heading down the salt in a moment of bliss.

The experience of being one with your vehicle is a moment of peace.

Tall_Rassman3 karma

Favorite race car driver and why?

Rocket67063 karma

I think one of my faves is John Force (NHRA top-fuel drag racer) and the reason is he has staying power. He spans many decades and generations and even at the age he is today, he is still a force to be reckoned with.

mumumu79353 karma

1) When it comes to your current racing classification, what do you think is the biggest factor which is keeping the record where it stands.
2)When it comes to OTHER land speed vehicles (rocket, cycle, etc...) what do you think is the biggest factor holding the record where it is. For instance, what stops strapping a jet engine or a supercar motor onto a bike from being a viable land speed record breaker.

Thanks for the AMA! Its really cool to hear from somebody in such a unique field.

Rocket67062 karma

1) Landspeed records are rented, not owned. The record is defined by the type of vehicle, the displacement or type of engine, and the fuel it consumes. My class is a D engine, which limits its displacement to 305.999 cubic inches. My car class is limited to production vehicles between the years 1928 and 1938. But the street roadster class that further defines my vehicle says that I cannot modify the body relative to any panel orientation, must have rear fenders, and must use two headlights facing forward, 5 inches in diameter or greater. So the limiting factors of keeping a record at a specific speed are dependent on who can squeeze the most horsepower out of a specific engine and optimize the aerodynamics of their body within the rules.

2) It starts with the rules, and the rules are designed for safety first. And the adage "if you build it, they will come" doesn't alway hold true. Sometimes you build it, and they don't allow you to race it. So if there is a class that allows you to compile and combine various components in the fashion as you describe, GAME ON!

Rocket67062 karma

Follow Up. Your question really got my head spinning and I appreciate it greatly. There are many factors; however, the most significant is changing our thought bias on what we believe to what is actual. Example. Me and the team go forward with thoughts about what is going on with the car and what the possible solutions are, some are good (get more speed) and others are not so good (slower). In the RadX Landspeed Heroes segment where my team is featured the narrator indicated that a lack of record was a failure, and in a way it is a failure to realize an objective, but more importantly it was invaluable data and lessons on "what not to do" and that is priceless. Having a film crew follow our team provided video of our car at high speed gave us data we would not have otherwise discovered. One of the questions I was asked on this AMA is seeing things in movies that make you scratch your head; well in my segment I was able to see the parachute deploy at 207 MPH and slow it down to discover it was first bouncing off the ground after deployment and just prior to fully opening. That allowed our team to relocate the parachute directly behind the rear axle under the car and eliminate about 6 mph of aerodynamic drag. The video shots of me inside the car while driving clearly show a vortex of wind from the particles of salt and the bright green head restraint release strings affixed to my helmet blowing forward. This data was showing inversion of air flow and further substantiated the parachute move as well as windscreen geometry. You could never replicate these conditions in a wind tunnel because the car is static relative to the wind flow, and the environment at Bonneville is dynamic. To directly answer your question I felt the context was required to support my answer acquiring data and knowing what to do with it.

Barking_Giraffe3 karma

As an engineering student, how do I get involved in the aerospace industry? What positions or companies should I work for in order to gain technical experience in this field instead of getting lost in paperwork positions?

Rocket67061 karma

I prefer the larger companies because of the diversification of assignments, and the bigger the company the bigger challenges they tend to sign up for. Almost all companies have an employment webpage and many offer college internships, he company I work for included. Recently we did a trial high school internship as a method of shaping the future of aerospace, and honestly, some of the talent and quality of youth is humbling.

Rocket67063 karma

Alright everyone, just stepping away from the computer for now, but I wanted to thank everyone so much for all the great questions! This has been a very interesting and fun experience.

NotMathMan8212 karma

I understand that the lack of friction between the tires on your vehicle and the surface of the Salt Flats makes it hard to get traction, for instance off the starting line.

  1. Is there a point at which this lack of traction benefits you in going for higher speeds or is the difference in friction between asphalt and the salt surface negligible?
  2. If so, where is that point/speed?
  3. And if not, why not go for records on asphalt instead? I mean, I-80 towards Bonneville is pretty straight and flat. ;)

Rocket67063 karma

  1. My first year we calculated how much the car needed to weigh to overcome drag forces with the horsepower that the engine produced. We were unable, due to schedule, to actually balance the car correctly and decided to go to Bonneville anyway. We started off fine until the car reached 172 MPH at which point the drag forces acting on the car became equal to the traction forces of the tires and the more gas we gave, the more the tires would spin. When we came back and analysed the data our mathematical model said that we should have spun our tires based on the actual weight of the car at 174 MPH. We subsequently added 600 lbs of lead to the car and were able to go 200 MPH the following year.

  2. The coefficient of friction really doesn’t enhance the effects of speed; it hurts it. So the slower you go the less of an impact, the faster you go the more of an impact. Unless you are trying to set a speed record using a sled where there are no rotating wheels only propulsion and runners.

  3. No sanctioning body has a five-mile asphalt venue. The closest asphalt venues are the East Coast Timing Association, and they use two-mile runways. Plus asphalt takes all the fun out of it.

P1eman2 karma

How are you a rocket scientist if you're building cars? Something seems fishy here! Joking aside this is really awesome! What's the hardest part about what you do?

Rocket67062 karma

The hardest part of my job is when a political answer trumps the technical answer. It leaves you scratching your head and asking, Why? And the hardest part of the racing experience is keeping my geographically disparate team engaged so that we can be prepared for the following racing season.

bodam882 karma

How much time is spent in the garage compared to out in the flats

Rocket67062 karma

90% garage, 10% flats - the flats are only dry between July and October. The rest of the year, it's submerged. So, there's a year of prep, and a week to two weeks of trial and error.

harbeezy2 karma

Any advice for current engineering students about the Aerospace business?

Rocket67062 karma

It's constantly changing, it introduces a lot of technology, it's a great place to work, and it's one of the best places for toys an engineer could find.

BMcGillicutty2 karma

How much does the surface you are driving on matter for speed, and what's the best surface to drive fast on?

Rocket67061 karma

The traction force between a tire and the road has a specific coefficient of friction. That is what keeps you from spinning your wheels or sliding off the road on a turn. That value is about 0.75, for whoever cares. Driving on the salt flats has a coefficient of friction of nearly half that. So it varies depending on the environment. The salt may look flat and hard, however salt absorbes water and there's a reason they call it a dry lake bed. So think about if you were driving on a wet slushy road, with your foot to the floor, going 200 mph. The best surface is hard, flat, and probably a runway or concrete.

fluffy_butternut2 karma

I 2005 I went to West Wendover to see the e=motion team try to set an electric powered vehicle land speed record. They were shooting for 200 mph but the attempt failed.

This past year the Buckeye Bullet team hit 320 mph and set a new record at 307 mph. They are now focusing on BB3 with a goal of 400 mph.

Setting aside the fact that I think a non-wheel-driven land speed record is complete rubbish, how long do you think it will be before an electric vehicle will be the fastest wheel driven vehicle?

Rocket67061 karma

Good question! If I could predict that I would be a rich man. It comes down to technology and where the research and development money is spent and today the technology of the internal combustion engine is fairly old, however, there are things that they can use to improve it. In a previous response I talked about the political answer trumping the technical answer - the technology to make electric vehicles faster than combustion vehicles will be allowed when the interest groups or politics prevail.

kicker582 karma

Can i get a bolt or something from one of the cars? You know make my friends jealous.

Rocket67061 karma

Yeah, I got pieces to cut off. Would be happy to provide spare parts

kicker582 karma

Awesome should I PM you my address?

Rocket67061 karma

Yes, I would be happy to send you something cool, rusty and covered in actual salt.

[deleted]2 karma

[deleted]

Rocket67061 karma

Proprietary. However, it depends on the application.

DX1112 karma

I've seen video of cars with regular bodies running at Bonneville. I'm sure it would depend on the individual cars aerodynamics, weight distribution etc. but generally at what speed do they have to worry about getting unstable and airborne?

Rocket67061 karma

My car is fairly stable because the required rear fenders transfer the Center of Pressure (Cp) of the car aft of the Center of Gravity (CG); that said it also acts like speed brake hanging out the side, but also contains the overall aerodynamic drag of the spinning wheels...so many variables which one out weighs the other. To answer your question the small little coups like Honda and mustangs go really fast; however, also tend to catch air and flip. There is a youTube from El mirage dry lake bed showing a car flipping many times at 240 mph. Everyone OK, not the car.

landmule2 karma

Did you see the celebration of Bonneville speed at the recent Grand National Roadster Show?

Rocket67061 karma

No, but several of my buds were there and the 534 car featured is one I race against. The designer and builder is a good friend and mentor.

Chubbs_McCallister2 karma

200MPH? I can do that on the Hayabusa I bought used for $9000, rocketman.

Rocket67062 karma

I would pay to see that on a salty mushy wet track with ruts and bumps.

crustysalesmen2 karma

I'm confused, the current land speed record is 763mph... there are more than a few production cars that are capable of breaking 220mph. Please tell me what I am missing about this post.

edit: missed a word

Rocket67062 karma

Last I checked (cars only, there is a whole different set for motorcycles) there are around a 1000 variations of vehicles, from the special construction (like Speed Demon streamliner shown in episode 1) to production pickup truck. The records are broken down as follows: 1. Type of Fuel (includes gas but also anything you can burn) and Gas (provided at event) 2. Engine displacement 12 categories AA 501.00 cid and over to K up to 30.99 cid. Mine is a D class 261.00cid to 305.99 cid 2A. Engines can also be categorized by vintage or modern and in varying degrees. 3. blown (Super charger, turbo charger) or unblown (Carb fuel injection) And so on, with each type of car combination having a unique record.

This way the Jet wingless ground airplanes that go 763 mph compete within their class, and people like me with a vintage roadster play in the 220 mph realm, and realm to me is fiscal limits of staying married.

mikeyboy1132 karma

This might get buried (hopefully not) but is it safe to assume your a gear head? Also what's your favorite car?

Rocket67062 karma

Gear head is appropriate. I have many favorite cars. The 1962 chevy II is a classic style. The early 6/67 GTO is cool. I like the pre-1973 corvette. I am also fond of older British metal Sunbeam Tiger (Get smart), and the 60's vintage Jag XKE. If I were to pick a favorite today it is my 1962 Chevy 11 model 100 2 door with a big honking V8 and four speed.

Optimus_Tard2 karma

How do you feel about the fact that one can achieve those speeds with a motorcycle and a little bit of money?

Personally, I don't see a point in spending a ludicrous amount of money on a car when you can spend 10-15k to get a bike to go just as fast, if not faster.

Rocket67062 karma

It is all about your comfort level. The older I get the longer it takes to recover, and the more I stand to lose. My comfort level is knowing I designed a car that is as safe as it can be, allows me and my team a creative outlet for tinkering, and goes pretty darn fast.

ipreferconsole2 karma

What is your opinion on the henessey venom gt?

Rocket67061 karma

What's not to like about 427 cubic inches in a cool looking car, made in the great state of Texas; albeit still chasing the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport record.

Clambulance12 karma

What's the benefit of building these cars that can go over 200 mph to society?

Rocket67064 karma

As an engineer, I am a lifelong learner. When I decided to go back to school and get my graduate degree, there was a 20 year stand between my undergraduate and graduate. The reason I chose to get a degree was to stay competitive in the workplace. Experience only takes you so far.

What's the benefit of building these cars that can go over 200 mph to society? By being able to apply the principles and theories learned in the classroom to an actual application, I benefit, my company benefits, and my customers benefit - because I'm a better engineer.

Rocket67066 karma

And I have a really cool car after all is said and done.

waferjuice2 karma

Mr Scientist, how do you think modern human kind will live wtihout the long distance communication devices like handphone, internet, etc??

Rocket67062 karma

Ask Kevin Coster and his horse. In today's society, information is what will win or lose the battle. And at some point, if the information system goes down, it may greatly impede our society as a whole. I was fortunate growing up in the transition from analog phone systems to the digital world. I know how to use slide rule.

Rocket67062 karma

Follow up answer: Today society is so plugged in with texting, chat and e-mail, the art of conversation is a lost art. If it all goes away tomorrow, it will be a quiet place for a while.....that is until people learn to get out of the house, up from their desks and interact one on one.

ikno2 karma

[deleted]

Rocket67061 karma

No

ikno2 karma

[deleted]

Rocket67062 karma

I think they already have that, Bonneville Boys. Also something similar, The Boys of Bonneville, however the 60s were a unique time for invention and resourcefulness and many of the land speed heroes of the sixties are still involved with motorsports today. Might be interesting.

ikno2 karma

[deleted]

Rocket67061 karma

That would be a cool story. Thrust is am must.

Lumpy3141592 karma

What are the cars you build mostly made of? Is there any fear that they will break apart at such high speeds? Thank you for doing this.

Rocket67062 karma

Frame construction is mandrel bent 2x4x0.125 wall steel tubing. The floor is 0.25 inch thick plate steel. The roll cage is 1.75 inch DOM steel tubing custom bent and triangulated for all load conditions with 0.125 plate steel gussets at all intersecting load paths. Some very good welds to hold it all together; along with a huge investment in high grade bolts, holds the rest where it needs to be. The one thing about land speed cars is weight is good to a certain point for the required traction. Building the structure to have good bones makes it safe. There is always a risk of failure; however, aerospace training helps identify single fault tolerant solutions to design problems. It is all about safety.

bolapara2 karma

I once went slightly under 190mph in a 1994 Toyota Supra.* Can you tell me all the ways that was stupid?

* On a closed course.

Rocket67061 karma

Depends. Where did you do it and what was the risk to others. I have done some less than safe speed attempts in my youth, some safe and some just plain insane. Today I look through a different lens, an outward lens answering this simple question, relating to basic physics for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction (good movie butterfly effect): If my plan goes south, what is the worst thing that could happen and who would it impact. Racing down a highway with other people not only places you at risk, but everyone else, almost all of whom did not sign up for additional risk.

nikkilambtudico2 karma

What kind of hobbies does a Rocket Scientist do in their spare time?

Rocket67061 karma

-Motorcycle trips -Teaching the teenagers how to survive high school physics and science -Working on race cars and rebuilding classic automobiles -And thinking of the next best way to go fast

Dizzymo2 karma

Are there any movies that feature something moving really fast and you're all like "yeah right, nice try Hollywood"

Rocket67066 karma

Yeah, being an engineer, I tend to look for details. And a lot of the details you see, like a car jumping though a fiery explosion and then landing on the other side -- most times it's not the same car. Or even the same style of car.

While we were working on the space station program in Alabama, Apollo 13 debuted in theatres. A bunch of us "rocket scientists" sat around the TV drinking beer and pointing out all the discrepancies within the movie. The NASA logo was newer one--not from 1969. The Corvette was a 1972, and I caught several other nuances they had wrong.

Spacedrake3 karma

You probably had a lot of fun with Gravity.

Rocket67062 karma

OK, I never responded to this AMA and wanted to so here it goes a few days late and dollar short. First the airlocks opening outward are just wrong. Second the fire extinguisher on ISS was specifically designed to minimize thrust force; however, the movies did a good job portraying what we designed out of the system; including that thrusting space walk using the portable bottle. The free traveling space walk is a no-no and all personnel are required to be secured via tether. Lastly, all attaching hardware (nuts, bolts, etc.) are captive to the device being removed, and the one handed removal of the parachute cables on the Soyuz capsule would have broken her arm. My final comment is on death in vacuum of space. The rapid decompression from about 10.8 psi (internal ISS operating atmosphere) to Vacuum would explode the human body prior to freezing, a phenomena called "explosive decompression", go figure.

There were a lot of realities in the picture, as well.

PelicanElection2 karma

Those airlock hatches opening out...

Rocket67062 karma

Funny you should mention air locks. Had an opportunity to sit in one while it was being built in the clean room. The distance between you and the vacuum of space is measured in millimeters . Talk about man in a can.

Rocket67061 karma

Just plain wrong

ScannerBrightly2 karma

No love for the fast rocket-car in Buckaroo Bonsai?

Rocket67062 karma

If we could all go through mountains and walls auto insurance companies would be defunct.

Ludwig_Beethoven2 karma

What is your favorite Beethoven symphony?

Rocket67063 karma

No. 5 is a classic

[deleted]2 karma

[deleted]

Rocket67061 karma

Aeropace is a global industry and can take you in many directions. Communications, defense, commerical aviation or others. There are numerous opportunities for internships, however, many of them are highly competitive. My advice is to not only be very good at your schoolwork but to also round out your interests with extra-curricular activities that augment your learning.

Rocket67061 karma

Make it fun, don't have a box from which you have to think out of, and do something novel like...actually designing building and testing a car that provided over 30 credits of research papers and entertainment.

FreshMintStart2 karma

Hey nice meeting you. Two questions

  1. Did your parents believe you would grow up to be something different?

  2. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Rocket67063 karma

I was the ADD, hyperactive, Ritalin poster child and wanted to get into everything. My mom would often come downstairs to find her blender in pieces because I wanted to know how it worked. My dad was also a professional engineer and he was able to channel much of my energy to helping repair cars, build electronic kits and help build a family lake house in New Hampshire that included electrical wiring, copper plumbing and finished carpentry work - all while I was a teenager. I, on the other hand, wanted to make jewellery but my parents knew better and channeled me back to engineering.

revanfiliaexdeus2 karma

Do you still make jewelry as a hobby?

Rocket67062 karma

Last piece I designed was the ring on my wife's hand, but I had a professional jeweler make it.

Theedon2 karma

After 30 years in your Career how much of your design is just winging it because you have either done it before or you know it is the correct design and do not need to reinvent what you are going?

Rocket67061 karma

Experience matters, but making sure your design meets the specific requirements of that application always requires verification. Just because it worked before for that application, it may not work the same for this application.

Seraph_Grymm2 karma

How much longer until you bring me into the fold and let me work as your loyal underling?

Rocket67062 karma

What talents do you bring and how can you help the cause?

Seraph_Grymm2 karma

I'm very good at bringing the noise, the funky chicken, and other morale boosting games. I can also write...a lot.

Actually, I can transcribe events fairly well, but that's not really a necessary function (professional writer).

Can I just bring the noise?

Rocket67064 karma

You're in!

Citrus_supra2 karma

Awesome AMA!!!!
Nice to meet ya! :D
1) At what speed do aerodynamics start to play an important role in the vehicle construction?
2) what would happen to your cars if they had aerodynamics such as the ones in the so called "beige cars"?
3) Your favorite production cars? (old/new/domestic/import?)
Edit: Format

Rocket67063 karma

1) There's the speed region before the speed of sound, and the speed region after the speed of sound. Depending upon the type of vehicle, each region must be accounted for independently. For my vehicle, I hope I never achieve the speed of sound, because it probably won't stay together. And therefore, we're dealing in the incompressible fluid flow. For my specific vehicle, aerodynamics plays an important role throughout the speed region. However, it's most important around 200 MPH, where the coefficient of drag or frontal area of the car is impacted by the drag force of the air acting on it.

2) If I had aerodynamics, the speed of my car would be greatly improved. However, the rules of my racing class preclude many of the features that would be found in a "beige car design."

3) Currently, my favourite production car is the 1962 Chevy II Nova. Why? Currently restoring an original two-door, however putting a big motor in it.

Imwaytooinsecure2 karma

Hi there! Thanks for the AMA!! One question. What would you have to say to those thinking of becoming a rocket scientist but are needing some propulsion in the right direction, right out of high school? Thanks again!

Rocket67062 karma

There is a lot of opportunity youth today in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). People like myself often mentor middle and high school students on what it means to be an engineer. There are activities like first robotics that help people engage in the team sport of building a robot to meet a specific objective. Or there is always trying to find someone who will be your mentor. Seek out an individual that you want to be like and ask them to help you.

s_mw2 karma

What are the flats like?

Rocket67063 karma

So you make the trip from Washington State to Utah in a truck hauling a trailer, and you see the town of Wendover, Nevada. In the background, you see a bunch of flat, white landscape. As you make your way to the salt flats and drive "the end of the road," you enter a white, dry salt lakebed with a speck two miles out in front of you in the middle. As you continue to drive, the speck become larger and larger until you finally realize you're in the middle of a very unique city that's reminiscent of the oasis found by Mel Gibson in the movie Mad Max: the Road Warrior.

iluvatar2 karma

Do you need a driver? I have NHRA and FIA licenses and have clocked 260+mph so far, with hopefully more to come this year.

Rocket67061 karma

Teams only big enough for one driver, but thanks anyway.

BulldozersandDirt2 karma

Have you ever built a drop tank lakester, just for fun. I find them really beautiful. What kind of engines to those aluminum tank cars normally have? (Those cars might be amateurish compared to yours but just thought I'd ask!) thank you

Rocket67061 karma

Never done one,but on the list. Engines range form Motorcycle to big honking V8. All depends on the class you race. They are very cool

jump_oniT852 karma

How often do you hear "Well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out." when you, yourself can't figure something out?

Rocket67062 karma

I love sarcasm as a means of humor and often hear that statement. It is a good way to step back form the problem and reassess. To solve a problem you must fixate on the problem, but also ensure you are receptive to open ideas. Example; We were doing smoke test on an airplane and when we dove form 40K to 25K feet in the "firefighting"mode smoke would migrate forward into the flight deck, not good. I came up with the bright idea to open the Lavatory doors and flush the Vacuum toilets during the test and what do you know it sucked all the smoke down the flusher. We subsequently installed a valve in the vacuum line and the problem was fixed. The idea came from my work on space station and working with commodes.

[deleted]2 karma

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Rocket67061 karma

Thos eare the special construction teams categorized as Streamliners. They ahev large funds to fast speeds.

eternalfrost2 karma

Well, it's not exactly brain surgery is it?

Rocket67062 karma

Nope, but it is "Rocket Science"

Turnawheel2 karma

I want to convert a honda cb125s to a land speed bike. What's the realistic expectation of a random guy tinkering in his basement actually breaking a small displacement record like that?

Rocket67063 karma

There are many 125 cc records to be had ranging from Mild 31 mph (production - production vintage engine P-PV) to Wild over 150 mph (streamliner modified engine fuel S-F). Chances are pretty good. MY neighbor took a 50cc moped to Bonneville and hot lapped for a week. No record, but a ton of fun.

motorcyclist2 karma

here is a 30 minute documentary I made regarding LSR at Bonneville.

http://youtu.be/6XFdGoBe2u0

here is John Noonan riding a turbo charged hayabusa to 253MPH average speed... on the books for a new personal record.

http://youtu.be/OfGgzhBhr3g?t=2m1s

here is a POV view of a HAYABUSA being ridden by John Noonan at El Mirage.

http://youtu.be/OfGgzhBhr3g

Rocket67061 karma

I have a deep respect for the two wheel Land Speed teams. Any mistake has the potential for a really ....really bad outcome at those speeds.

revanfiliaexdeus2 karma

I build amateur rockets for fun and studied physics in high school / college. I designed an experimental system that I'd like to build. In short, it would use helium weather balloons to take a gyroscopically stabilized platform up as far as possible. Sensors would wait for a zero point in acceleration (i.e. - when the balloons pop, but before the system begins to fall), and begin the ignition sequence. The gyroscopes keep the platform steady from alterations in angle of launch due to wind or other factors. The rocket would be a two or three stage designed to achieve a sub orbit or orbit and would be tracked via a cell phone. Ultimate goal for this system is to discover applications of civilian rocketry.

Is this feasible? If so, any tips for us?

Rocket67061 karma

I am good up tot he point of "tracking with Cell Phone". The major consideration for tracking is signal strength and frequency band. Cell phone might not cut it, unless you could use the cell phone as the front end to something with less hysteresis. There are already high altitude balloon experiments being conducted; however, I am not aware of any that launch a rocket, mostly sensor platforms. The other consideration is the variability in "Balloon Pops" is a very hard transition from a timing perspective to Launch. And the launch sequence will require precision timing to coincide with the rocket which must have its own stabilization controls to ensure it launches in the proper trajectory. Work the problem backwards and you will see it differently.

Asdyc2 karma

That is amazing. Any advice for those interested in being a rocket scientist?

Rocket67061 karma

Follow your dream, surround yourself with people who support and believe in you, and don't give up on "Failures", they are not really failures...they are one of the best learning experiences one could ever have.

frapawhack2 karma

are there any rocks on the bonneville salt flats?

Rocket67061 karma

No rocks, per-say, but occasionally a part will depart from a vehicle and it shuts the course down until it is found. At the speeds some of the vehicles travel a rock would be a very bad day.

JelliedHam2 karma

I might take you up on that. I've always had a knack (read: more interest than ability) for mechanics and engineering, and I'd love to make the drive in my most prized possession: Roxanne, my RX-7. I have my own obsession with speed.

Coffee in hand, if course.

I'll help out any way I can. Thanks for the shout out.

Rocket67061 karma

Please do so, we are a friendly bunch.

SaigaExpress2 karma

when is speed week this year? what is a good time for people to come out and check cars out and watch?

Rocket67061 karma

Speedweek 2014 is August 9-15. technical Inspection starts August 7th and is a great place to see all the cars because they all require inspection prior to the event. I can be found in the technical inspection area form August 7th through August 9th as a volunteer inspector. I tend to start racing the Sunday or Monday after the Saturday start, after many people Blow their stuff up.

Quadrupleawesomeness2 karma

I am an architect student studying the flats. Does the salt corrode the metal? How has the recent flooding been affecting the racing?

Rocket67061 karma

Look back to chemistry and the periodic table. Steel frames, Aluminum heads on engine, cast iron blocks, Stainless steel fittings and bolts, Lead ballast, and a sprinkling of other alloys; mixed with Salt (Potassium Chloride, yes Potassium not Sodium) and a very high humidity (moisture) and you got yourself one giant electrolysis process going on. The first year we brought the car to Bonneville in 2010 we did not have time to paint the newly constructed frame and roll cage. The second we rolled the car off the trailer it started to acquire surface rust.

Rocket67061 karma

The flooding has put a stop to the racing and it impacted the 2013 season post Speedweek 2013 in its entirety. All subsequent events were cancelled.

109adamrocks2 karma

Were you there when top gear did a speet test of their muscle cars on the salt flats?

Rocket67061 karma

That is a great show btw, love the humor. I believe that segment was 2009 and I was at Bonneville as a first timer on the pit crew of Lakester 9900 "Trojan Thunder". I was so involved with supporting the team, along with sensory overload I did not see, or was unaware, it was going on. My experience in 2009 was the deciding factor for me to build my own car.

WhatsUpDucky2 karma

Ever got in an argument with a brain surgeon?

Rocket67061 karma

Nope, but I did have an interesting discussion (technical debate) with a neurosurgeon when I embedded a large chunk of wood in my hand during an "oh shit" moment while renovating a bathroom. His recommendation to find the missing pieces was X-ray, while mine was Ultrasound using a megahertz probe. Apparently there are benefits to working in aerospace and understanding non-destructive test on non-ferrous materials. He over ruled and took the X-rays, found nothing and then we pulled an ultrasound form the maternity ward and successfully found the wood pieces. He did say towards the end of my stay..."I learned something today".

Monkey-Jogger1 karma

What do you think about rotary engines vs piston engines ?

Rocket67062 karma

A couple thoughts come to mind. Rotary engines have far less moving parts and are therefore much simpler. that is good from a reliability and supportability perspective. The rotary engine can also withstand much higher Revolutions per minute (RPM); which is going to be required because one of he downfalls of a rotary engine is lack of torque, and torque is a function of Horsepower (HP). Rotary engines also consume more oil because of the way they are designed, and if I remember correctly have seal issues.

Piton engines tend to get better gas mileage, can develop huge amounts of torque (function of Cylinder bore and Crankshaft Stroke) that will produce Horsepower.

clandestinewarrior1 karma

You stared out repairing cars, why or how did you end up in aeronautical engineering? I think it's awesome you got so far in life

Rocket67061 karma

I owe most of who and what I am to my parents. My dad was a professional engineer and one of the pioneers of the space suit, specifically the environmental controls (life support) Niel Armstrong wore while he walked on the moon. I reflect back on my life life and see huge parallels with my father. The foundation of car repair and rebuild provides a foundational thought process that is extremely beneficial to engineering. A car is a system that has electrical, electronic, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, combustion, hydro mechanical, etc. subsystems to make the whole work. Making it better or trying to fix a problem requires thinking across multidimensional boundaries. The same hols true in Aerospace.

randomguy34821 karma

Had you always wanted to do this? Or better worded, when was the first time you sat down and thought... "Hmm, this is what I want to do"?

Rocket67061 karma

I always had an interest in cars a byproduct of helping my dad work on the family cars at a young age. One of my first art projects in 3rd grade was to cut a picture out of a magazine and varnish it to a sanded piece of wood, I chose a funny car from one of the car magazines. I fell into Bonneville by happenstance during my graduate degree in engineering and was invited to participate on a pit crew after writing a detailed research paper of life cycle costs of a racing engine, that was predicated on reliability, horsepower, and material selection. The paper received a favorable grade and I was on the pit crew of a 30mph Lakester. I knew that this was my calling the moment I arrived on the Salt flats and saw the myriad of technical marvels....some not so technical, but ingenious nevertheless...that pit crewing was fine but a car of my own was the real desire.