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The Plume School Micro Project

Report 3: March 2001

Well the time for performance testing finally arrived today. Things looked doubtful in the morning with constant rain for hours but by lunchtime it had stopped and we rolled the micro out and along to the basketball court. First circuit by Robert was slow and uneventful as the engine warmed up and started pulling more strongly. Matt took over and gaining confidence on his second  circuit, started really pushing the little projectile. At the end of the course he pulled hard over on the wheel and the inside wheel lifted and the car tipped  gracefully over onto its side. Two seconds later he stood up smiling and righted  the car. Once my palpitations had slowed we restarted and I took over for a few laps. Gradually tightening the turn you could feel the inner wheel starting to  become lighter as the car got closer to it's balance point. Leaning into the  turn was the order of the day for any high speed cornering.

Matt was soon back on board for more driving and so it continued for several hours with the lads  taking turns to fly round the course. Teacher Tim Coller who had enabled the project to come about also had a ponderous circuit or two and gave his approval to the micro. Needless to say it aroused a good deal of interest from staff and pupils alike and we even had a photographer from the local paper take a few pics of the lads and the little car.

At the end of the day we drove back to the workshop and analysed the performance. We concluded that in most respects the micro had surpassed our expectations by far. The acceleration and potential speed were better than we had imagined they would be. The court was not long enough to hold the throttle open for more than a few seconds before lifting off for the turn at probably 20mph but it was clear the car was still gaining speed  strongly at this point. The direct steering which I had thought might be overly  heavy had actually proved very light and well balanced and the brakes were well up to the job and would easily, maybe too easily, lock the wheels in an emergency. The suspension was a great success and soaked up the bumps well. In fact the only concern was the ultimate stability which was worrying. .

Those who have seen the fun-tech Scootercar will have seen and probably laughed at the  little outrigger wheels at the rear which look just like the training wheels from a kiddies first two wheeled bike. Well we now know why they are there.


Tim Coller, the chap who arranged for the funding of the project

In a car with the layout we chose for our micro with a fairly high seat positioned  just in front of the rear wheel, there is very little weight at the front of the  car and the driver is positioned quite close to the edge of the triangle which  the three wheels form on the ground. When at the limit, the car will lean and  when the weight of the driver starts to shift outside the triangle he is helping to tip the car.....oops. We talked about adding the outriggers but decided against it. What we are going to do is move the driver to a better position further forward and nearer to the ideal position between the front wheels. This will bring driver weight further inside the triangle and help to keep the inside wheel firmly down. It will mean a lot of work and replanning but ultimately we  think it's the best way to go. So next week it's out with the hacksaw  again......

All in all it was a great day today. I've  seldom seen such total elation as the three lads showed driving their handywork  round that court. If they'd had their way we would still be there with torches lighting the way.

Go to Report 4