WMSI Mobile Lab Visits The Mt. Washington Hotel!

By Jeremy Knowlton

WMSI has quickly accelerated into Fall programming with an intriguing zip-line challenge at the Mount Washington Hotel! The program was founded on the brainstorm that asked the question "what STEAM challenge could highlight the unique setting of Crawford Notch?" This question framed this outdoors challenge, which used a miniature version of Bretton Woods' Zip-line to excite kids and adults about aerial exploration in the North Country!


The program had three main challenges: design a self propelled zip-line vehicle using a propeller, a balloon, or a robot! The day started with participants walking up to the side lawn of the Mount Washington on a gloriously sunny day with three zip-lines set up and a team of smiling blue-shirted WMSI instructors ready to start this high flying aerial endeavor!

For the robot challenge, participants started with a finite amount of pieces and the task of building a robot that could climb a huge slack-line at a steep angle...without falling! (no robots were harmed in the testing of this activity).


Participants excitedly assembled prototypes, using a host of different mechanisms for gripping the line and stopping the robot from falling. We were particularly interested in how students increased the grip of their robots; they considered frictional factors such as slack-line gripping material as well as how weight distribution would effect holding power! Soon, shouts of excitement poured off of the expansive hotel lawn as robots climbed 5 feet, 10 feet, even 20 feet into the air! One student even attached a Gopro to his build, allowing us to see what it would be like as a passenger on this vehicle slowly making its way up to the second story of the hotel!


Participants also designed zip-line vehicles powered by balloons and propellers! These challenges featured fast speeds, lots of iterative design, and tons of giggles! Participants designed many prototypes to solve the mystery of the high powered balloon zip-line vehicle. Working models had some combination of tape, straws, and popsicle sticks as the main body. Students spent a lot of time designing the mechanism that would hold the balloon onto the line, creating a system that would slide easily and distribute the force of the balloon release well. Students also designed propellor-powered zip-line vehicles, using plastic propellors, rubber bands to store energy, and popsicle sticks/straws for the body. We were very impressed with participant prototyping, as these young inventors happily and patiently designed 3-4 non-working models before they discovered the secret tweaks that would make their builds soar up the line! 

All in all, the day was a wonderful mix of sun, beautiful scenery, and innovative design at the Mount Washington Hotel! We look forward to future programs with North Country businesses!