View Full Version : Inner Geek: Fast Cars, Fast Physics

10-02-10, 07:30 AM
I love building stuff. I‚??ve been building stuff (and taking it apart) since I was a kid.¬* Back in 2000 I got the chance to build my ultimate toy: a Caterham Seven (http://www.uscaterham.com/) sports car. After taking it to a race track a couple of times, I began to wonder:

What performance I was actually getting?
Exactly how fast was I going?
How many ‚??G‚??s was I pulling going round corners?
How much power was being delivered to the wheels?

....and that was how my data-logger project began.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4125/5041659487_38d32c492b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/5041659487/)

Initially, I just planned on recording the ‚??lateral‚?? (side-to-side) and ‚??longitudinal‚?? (front-to-back) acceleration using one of the new micro-miniature ‚??MEMS‚?? accelerometers that had just come onto the market. However, like most projects, it seemed to take on a life of its own and I spent the next four years tinkering and adding capabilities until eventually I was measuring wheel speeds, engine RPM, and recording the data on a purpose-built solid-state disk.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4131/5042284554_c07fc92f65.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/5042284554/)

All this involved designing and making several printed circuit boards, wheel rotation sensors, and learning Z80 assembly language for the micro-controller I was using.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4108/5041659641_a91df85e42.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/5041659641/)

I also added the ability to superimpose the data onto a live video feed from an in-car camera, so the data could be matched up with what I was doing on the track.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4148/5041659593_7471e879da.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/5041659593/)

Of course, once you have the data, that‚??s when the real fun begins. I wrote special software to analyze the data and make lots of pretty graphs.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4085/5042284396_18f37acec9.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvidia/5042284396/)

Now, I‚??m not sure any of this made me a better driver, but I do know it‚??s definitely been a lot of fun. I also now know much more about the physics of racing cars, and learning is what life is all about, right?

http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/nTersect?d=yIl2AUoC8zA (http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/nTersect?a=H2ijb0FFoJA:62m-IDBb-xQ:yIl2AUoC8zA) http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/nTersect?i=H2ijb0FFoJA:62m-IDBb-xQ:V_sGLiPBpWU (http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/nTersect?a=H2ijb0FFoJA:62m-IDBb-xQ:V_sGLiPBpWU)

More... (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/nTersect/~3/H2ijb0FFoJA/inner-geek-fast-cars-fast-physics.html)