Saturday, July 14, 2012

Building Cabers for your Summer Olympics

Let’s face it: you’re not an Olympian. Great, I’m relieved to get that out of the way.

Starting with the Summer games in 2008, my company has held its own version of the Olympics. We had a fantastically memorable time in 2008, and again in 2010 (Winter), and are ramping up again for the 2012 games on Friday.

My contribution to the organization of the event this year is the caber toss. Or really just the cabers themselves. Apparently a caber toss is a Scottish thing where you launch 175 lb., 19’ birch trees (the cabers) for distance and accuracy. Obviously we’re not going to do exactly that (we’re a bunch of wee engineers) so our approximation will be constructed from pool noodles. Approximate equipment for an approximate event (this isn’t actually an Olympic event), I guess.

Here’s how I made ours.

Bill of materials:

  • 42 pool noodles (I bought a mostly whole box from my local dollar store for …$42)
  • Lots of duct tape (I used 2-20yd rolls from Target for $7)
  • Uh… that’s all

The above materials yield 2-12’ cabers. Your mileage may vary as I’ve learned that the length of a pool noodle is not consistent from place to place or box to box.

So go get those noodles:

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I built mine in bundles of seven (one in the middle, and six surrounding it all hexagon like):

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Here’s one thing that I hope will help a lot during the games: I offset three across the middle by 50%. So four back, three forward (imagine pulling the two yellow and one blue noodles above half-way out of that bundle as a starting point). This overlap will hopefully help things stay together. This means that I have a joint about every 2’ or so where 3-4 new noodles are added.

I found a single rubber band to be very helpful while taping each joint:

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OK, I’m probably over explaining this…it’s really pretty obvious when you do it.

I found that the tape didn’t stick all that well to the foam. This is nice if you want to undo some taping, but not so super for strength. I think doing three rings at each joint, though, should hold up well. Just make sure you have plenty of overlap onto the tape itself so it doesn’t unravel.

When you run out of noodles, you’ll have three or four sticking out. Cut those off, and use the amputated noodles to fill in the opposite end. These things cut ridiculously easy with regular old scissors:

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At this point, I had a single 24’ long bundle of noodles. I cut it in half and capped all the ends with a very generous amount of tape to make two bundles:

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As any god engineer would, I carefully estimated my materials before heading to the store and ended up with the following waste:

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And they’re ready:

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We had originally considered putting a wood dowel down the middle for rigidity. Ultimately I decided to forgo any additional structure. These are stiff enough to toss, but bendy enough to make it interesting or funny to watch people try. Plus they are light and safer this way.

Now I just need to figure out how to actually get them to the office…

If you’re overwhelmed with curiosity about what an office Olympics might be like, check out photos from previous years (2008, 2010). Pictures from this year’s games will be up a few weeks after the event.