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October 23, 2015

Skylon Tower mk II- suspended tower by Bothasig Rover Crew

1st Bothasig Rover Crew previously built a suspended tower, which fell a little short of their own high expectations for it. Having conducted a thorough SWOT analysis of the construction, the crew headed out to Hawequas Scout Ranch to build an improved version.
After six hours' work for 16 Rovers and Senior Scouts, the new tower successfully stood suspended one meter off the ground. 

Here is an excerpt from the project report, discussing the overall objectives:
In hindsight, our objectives could have been more precise in terms of how high we could raise the 
tower. Our objective was to simply outdo the Mk I tower in height raised and to do it without 
incident, which we did achieve with a raised height of 1m and no reported accidents. 
Considerations in achieving the objectives 
In the planning phase, it is possible to roughly predict the final height raised based on factors such 
• The height of the apex of the tripods in conjunction with the distance of the apex from the 
centre tower. These two factors have the greatest influence of the final height raised, and 
the remaining factors will merely maximise the geometric potential of the layout. 
o The higher the tripod apexes, the greater the potential is of the tower to be raised. 
Also, the greater portion of the pulling effort will be translated into a vertical 
component of force to pull the tower up (as opposed to the horizontal component, 
which is destructive in this case and should be kept to a minimal). 
o As with the previous explanation of the height of the apex, the same applies with 
the horizontal distance of the tripod apex to the centre tower. The closer the apex is 
to the centre tower, the greater the vertical component of the effort in the system. 
• The block and tackle ratios should be considered and based on the size of the structure, and 
the size/strength of your team.  
o We used a 3-2 pulley system, and had two people pulling on each of the 4 tackles. 
o This simply diagram should illustrate what kind of mechanical advantage (MA) you 
can obtain from each system. 
To work out the MA, you have to count the number of 
lines between the blocks and exclude the running end 
from the count. 
o The greater the MA, the better, but this will obviously 
be limited by the resources available to you. 
o We used a 3-2 pulley system which gave us a MA of 
• The man power is a consideration and should be maximised, especially if you are resources 
are limited with regards to the pulley system. With this construction, it is possible to have 
the team sub-divided to work on various components simultaneously.  
o If the size of the team is large enough, you can have people placing anchors, building 
the tripods, building the crow’s nest all at the same time. 
o When erecting the central pole, we had 40% of the team hauling on one guy line, 
50% lifting and supporting the centre tower, and 10% holding the opposing guy line 
to prevent any over shooting of the tower. 
o When raising the tower, we had two people per tackle and one person per guy line. 
Then we needed extra people to lock the block and tackles and to secure the guy 
o We had between 9 and 10 people to build the structure, and 12 people to raise the 
structure. More would have been better because we had to let one person on one of 
the tackles to let go and run to lock the black and tackle, then tie off the line to the 
anchor, then those two from that anchor could assist everyone else, which is not 
ideal. "

October 16, 2015

10 years of pioneering projects

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the first post to this blog. Since that first post, I've met people from around the world, online and in person, and been reminded of how Scouting connects us together despite our difference

Here are some of the most popular posts on the blog over the last ten years:
Step-by-step tensgrity tower
Step-by-step 24 foot treehouse
Enormous pioneered sculptures
Pioneered trebuchet
Friction-lock bridge

Things have been a bit quiet here lately, but there will be some new content coming up over the next few weeks...

May 8, 2015

Kontiki raft mass calculator

Gauteng KonTiki is coming up next weekend, and the Gauteng Scout Water Activities Advisory  Council, along with Puddle Pirates Rover Crew, has developed this Excel spreadsheet which helps calculate the mass of a raft, and ultimately calculate how deep a raft sits in the water. It takes into account the weight of poles, ropes, barrels, decking boards, equipment and crew to arrive at the total load which it then compares against the buoyancy provided by the barrels.

This tool is being offered for download at the KonTiki website for use by entrants to KonTiki, but hsould be useful to any Scout raft designers. Note that KonTiki is held on sheltered, still, inland waters, so the buoyancy is calculated with that in mind.

The tool is metric, but for rough estimation purposes for Imperial units, 1kg = approximately 2 pounds, and 100mm = almost exactly 4 inches.

Release notes from the website:
Alan Ford has arranged this tool as a safety measure to ensure that the raft being built will have sufficient buoyancy provided for by barrels, before being launched. This will aid you and also ensure that the raft is sufficiently manoeuvrable should you need to be towed by a rescue vessel.  
If you have any questions or would like Alan to review it, please e-mail it to when you have populated the final version or bring it to Kontiki on a memory stick, Alan will go through it at the event.

April 16, 2015

Dissipate - tensegrity tower at AfrikaBurn 2015 festival

Dissipate is a project being planned by a group of architects and engineers (including a few former Scouts) for the upcoming AfrikaBurn Burning Man regional event near Cape Town, South Africa.

The tower consists of an hourglass tower with a tensegrity on top of it, gradually 'dissipating' into the sky. Here's the team's own description of the project:
 Dissipate represents the impermanence of life; how structures, whether physical or notional, tend to move, transform, morph and eventually deconstruct and dissipate.
We will be constructing the primary structure using traditional pioneering technology (poles and ropes). The artwork's main structure consists of two intersecting tripods (each approximately 4 meters in height). This structure is then clad in a series of angled planks that get spaces wider apart as they reach the top at which point the structure changes into a tensegrity (structure consisting of compression members held in space by tension wires) to give the illusion of planks dissolving into space.
The structure physically celebrates structure and the morphing from a primal and very basic structural system into a new and complex structural system.

 You can keep up with the project on Twitter and Facebook. Right now, they're in the last few days of their fundraising drive, so head over to their site and see what they're offering as rewards.

March 20, 2015

Raft Barrel Lashings

Kontiki season is picking up here in Southern Africa, with Windhoek, Namibia hosting their event this weekend, and the Western Cape hosting theirs next weekend.

The diagram above shows one way of fastening barrels that worked well for my troop. You can double up with a second rope starting at the opposite corners to make it really secure. Apart from the ropes, the spacing of your poles is really important to make sure that the barrel sits securely on the raft base.

 drawn on iPad Mini using Paper app and Just-Mobile AluPen

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Ropes and Poles

Merry Christmas! If you're celebrating today, I hope you have a great day surrounded by family, and a blessed year ahead.

This tree is decorated with Monkey's Fists, tied in 8mm sisal rope, with eye-spliced ends.

December 5, 2014

Pioneered Christmas tree by Puddle Pirate Rover crew

Day and night photographs courtesy Akela Joy
For the East Rand District end of year Cub Christmas Camp, Puddle Pirate Rover Crew built this pioneered Christmas Tree. All of the guests at the camp bought gifts which were
used to decorate the tree and these were later donated to a charity.