Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Whoever said I can't build a bridge...

This past Saturday was the American University in Dubai's 3rd annual wooden bridge competition. I was asked if I wanted to participate around the 2nd week I was here, since I'm a member of ASCE. I said why not, and was put onto a team with three members who have competed before. We worked for many weeks drawing, designing, and testing in SAPP (a computer program that shows stresses). Once we agreed on a design we went straight to work. We printed a 1:1 scale CAD drawing to place the members on and cut the wood beams to their right lengths, cut the gusset plates out and began the gluing process.

Once the trusses were done, we put in some bracing and voila! We have a 2 meter long wooden bridge! Below is my team and our bridge.

A few days before the competition there was some disputes over where the three points of loading would be. The original instructions we're unclear and interpreted differently between schools and groups. So they sent out a few emails in successive days trying to explain, however, in the process, explained it incorrectly. In the end, they decided to just do a one point load to make it fair to everyone. This is what the loading device looks like: 

If you're interested and would like to know how it works, ask me in person one day, because I could spent the next 3 hours trying to explain it. 

When we first finished the bridge, looking at it, I imagined it holding somewhere around 200 pounds at the most. I mean its a wooden bridge! When we got up to the loading deck for testing, I couldn't have been more surprised. While watching from the side, I heard a loud snap after a few minutes. I thought it was a member. It wasn't. The metal rod snapped inside of our bridge! They stopped the loading while everyone was chanting "break that bridge!" to add a 2nd metal rod and continued loading. It held 1710lbs! (776kg) and weighed only 5.6kg. 

Scoring is done by dividing the load it carried by the weight^2.

We were well in the lead when we went and there were only 8 of 23 teams left. Until one of the last University of Sharjah teams went and carried 35 more kgs than our. We were bumped into 2nd place were we finished. Now bad for being open to the entire UAE. Definitely a great first experience for me. When I go back to Marshall, I'd like to see if we can incorporate this into either the curriculum or just have out own competition some day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Among my souvenirs

Oh what a weekend..

Thursday night
I went out with one of my IXO friends. She took me jet skiing first which I thought was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun (and cheap!) to just ride around the Sharjah creek (its not like a normal creek, more like a bay). Afterwards, however, wasn't so much fun. The indian worker tried to accuse me of crashing the jet ski, obviously trying to take advantage of me being a foreigner and just make some money. I didn't crash and no one hit me. So he and my friend argued in arabic for a while and he wouldn't give us our IDs back. Finally she called the police because we just wanted to leave. The three of them talked and talked and talked and again, he tried to take advantage of the situation by speaking to the police in Hindu, since neither of us could understand. The police explained that they get calls like this is all the time and because it's easy for them to use and old scratch over and over on different people. Finally the police made him give us our IDs back and told us to tell him we were going to the police station, but really just leave. So we did.
Then we walked along the beach for a while, got some coffee and dinner, then I took the metro home and she went to her home in Dubai.

Spent the morning and early afternoon doing reading and some homework. A little bit of lounging around. Then around 5, went out with some new friends. Sarah, Jumana, Noor, Zeena, and Farah have really taken me in are showing me around the place. First we went to GBK which stands for something about burgers lol Then we went to see Hall Pass, which is incredibly funny and met up with some more of their friends. Then just hung out a while around Dubai. Unfortunately, we were late coming back, but only by a few minutes, so we didn't have to sign. Once we got back, we all went to Jumana's room to just hang out a bit longer. I ended up not leaving until around 3:30 but didn't even realize it was so late. It was a great day, and I had a blast!

Today was another great day. We were supposed to go to falafel for brunch but the other girls didn't actually wake up until around 2 since we were up so late. So we left around 2:30 and went to this nice local restaurant and I actually hate hummus and falafel and drank mint tea. I didn't have a clue what to order, so we just ordered a few different dishes and just shared everything. It wasn't too bad and the falafel was pretty good. Not something I would crave, but not bad to try. If you know me, you'll know I'm a pretty picky eater and don't usually try new things that look like this, but I was feeling adventurous. We then went for ice cream and hung around this little park, but I can't remember the name of it.

All in all, a very nice weekend. I really don't want to go to classes tomorrow. Weekdays always ruin the weekend. But only 5 days till the next one!

Peace out!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Arabian Nights

I've had Arabian Nights stuck in my head all day. Good theme song for the day though, because I finally got to go on a desert safari! :-)

We got picked up at AUS in two land cruisers. Thinking we would take these to the desert then get in some smaller jeeps, we all piled in - 8 people in each. We first stopped at this little market where some of us bought head scarves, some bought knives, some just got water. Then we were off. There was so much anticipation, because literally, we could just drive off the road anywhere and go dune bashing because we were in the middle of the Arabian Desert the entire time. At one point, we started slowing down. Unsure why, we all just looked around and thought we were just gonna cruise off the road but soon realized there were about 20 camels just a walkin' down the center of the highway! The road we were on was your typical Montana, flat, high speed limit but everyone goes way faster because you get so bored driving on it, road. And there are these camels just nonchalantly walking along. Funny thing is, is they were all single file. I'm yet to see just a bunch of camels walking not in line. Weird.

We didn't get into smaller vehicles, but after feeling the V8, I wouldn't want to. That was a pretty incredible experience. I've been 4 wheeling many times; jeeps, trucks, ATVs, slid around on ice. Nothing compares to this. It wasn't quite as intense as I was expecting, but just the feeling was totally different. You could slide like you were on ice, but have the hills like going on dirt. Not to mention the amazing scenery.

After about 20 minutes, we stopped and had a chance to get out and take pictures. And probably the engines needed to cool off a bit. Here are some pictures from when we stopped.

After some more riding, we finally arrived at this "camp site". I'm not exactly sure what to call it, but thats the term I heard them use. They had camels for us to ride, hookah, henna tattoos, abayas and candoras to try on, dancing and lots of food! We obviously started with the camels because who doesn't love camels?? We couldn't ride them long or very far. And they only had two. But it's ok, because they are still awesome!

Then we smoked some hookah, walked around, tried on some abayas and candoras and waited for dinner. They gave us some appetizers first, and since it was dark, I couldn't really tell what it was. But I was feeling courageous and just ate it. It was really good. Something fried and some type of roll. I think Anna said it was an egg roll? Whatever it was, it was good until Danny opened his mouth. I'm still not sure if he was lying or not, but he said to watch out because there is some liver mixed in and you have to make sure to squeeze out the bile first. I lost my appetite.  

Finally the belly dancers came out and so did our food. Dinner was delicious. Lots of different pastas and meats. I think there was chicken, lamb and camel? Again, I'm not sure of what I was eating, but it sure was good!

So we all piled back into the land cruisers and cruised on home. 
So you think the desert - always hot, right? Wrong. Once the sun went down it was cold. To be fair, it was a chilly day, but still. I wish I had a jacket! Might be the last time for a while I think that!

Arabian nights
Like Arabian days
More often than not
Are hotter than hot
In a lot of good ways

Arabian nights
'Neath Arabian moons
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Out there on the dunes