This week, Science Channel has issued a hurricane
warning for Southern California due to the onslaught of Hurricane Mike. Weather
the storm intact, and you could pick up a vacation in Costa Rica. And all our
contestants have to do is construct a device that will save an aquarium from
crashing to the ground. Simple, right?
Our three maverick engineers will be working to
protect a coconut treehouse with an aquarium inside from torrential rains,
150-mile-an-hour winds, and flying debris that impact with an impact force of
4.5 tons. The weight of the water alone is half a ton, eight feet above the
ground with an 18-inch footprint, the center of gravity being the pivot point
between the trunk and the aquarium.
Here are the three who'll try to beat the
- JIM CASEY: structural engineer & racecar
- REBECCA LONG: carpenter from Virginia.
- MARK O'CONNOR: construction foreman & surfer.
Just so we're all on the same page, the prize is
a 10-day trip for two courtesy of Caravan Tours to Costa Rica. The tickets will
be floating in the water in the aquarium. They'll have 48 hours to try and build
something to save the aquarium from complete and utter devastation. Catch it...
Keep it. Miss it... well, you don't. You can't touch the method of destruction
OR the coconut tree.
The plan: a cage around the tree. The base will
be a grid for support, while the top is a protective area. They'll be using a
wooden frame to shield a dome element with chicken wire surrounding the top of
First test will be at high noon. Meanwhile, we
raise our four posts. They use wood because that's what Rebecca says. Jim
thought metal would've protected it more. He's lobbying for a metal element when
Mike tells them to think about more of the hurricane. They go for and outer
skeleton of metal for increased yield strength.
Seven hours later, and the rain starts to fall
courtesy of Mother Nature, so it's back to the shop to rethink their design.
27 HOURS TO LANDFALL
It's time to get the structure up. Meanwhile,
Mike is building HIS solution to the hurricane headache, two metal frames with
piston-fueled holders for the tank, reinforced by a cage to catch the tank
should the unthinkable happen. His rig will negate the high center of gravity.
The challengers... are impressed.
Jim is chasing down the expanded metal for the
dome that will hopefully save the tank. The yield strength will increase to
59,000 psi. Will it be enough to save the trip, though? Meanwhile Mark and
Rebecca discover that the coconuts aren't just surrounding the tank, they are
Now comes the first test, as Mike unveils the
coconut cannon that will be at work during the storm. Twenty gallons of air at
high pressure means 150-mph coconuts!
Speaking of, the guys (and girl) are back to the
drawing board... again... trying to cushion the coconuts and keep them from
rolling around. They're finally beginning to hit their stride, but here comes
Mike with test #1... the Coconut Cannon, which will test debris force. The
challengers will be trying to save the table, while Mike is going for the
aquarium itself. The coconuts hit... and the plywood snaps... and the coconuts
break at nearly a ton of force from two pounds of coconut. What about tempered
glass? Doesn't stand a chance. Expanded metal... turns the coconut into a
coconut Icee. And the metal... is actually breaking.
And it's back to the drawing board, trying to
incorporate more metal. Everything will now be reinforced by metal, including
the cage and the frame. Over at the hurricane fan, Zach & Mike blow away a stack
of plywood. Next up, tossing debris, tossing fax machines... and tossing
19 HOURS TO LANDFALL
Back to building. Their greatest issue is time.
They have a great design, but they don't have much time to implement it. And as
for the design, they're basically piling on more wood.
Let's look at the storm to come... a firehose
will represent the rain. A fan, the win. The debris cannon... debris. Will it
hold up against a foam backing to the dome?
Mike has discovered a second flaw: an anchor
point. That's the subject of test #2. Mike tests the footers that are holding
the challenger rig together. It comes apart at 720 lbs of force, 1000 pounds
less than the coconut from test #1. They need a BETTER bracketing system. And
they need to make it within 16 hours. Time to cut some steel and bolt it into
The heavy metal arrives, and the team needs to
armor up. Jim uses angle iron to support the base of the structure. All of this
has to come together within 15 hours, so the crew is pulling an all-nighters.
With 9 hours left, the cage is finally coming together, while Jim works to bolt
anything that isn't bolted down already.
3 HOURS TO LANDFALL
The metal is in place, but the sheetmetal still
needs to be in place and the undercover needs to be ... well, covered.
5 MINUTES TO LANDFALL
... and we're still not done with the
2 MINUTES TO LANDFALL
... nope. Not yet...
30 SECONDS TO LANDFALL...
... TAKE COVER, Y'ALL!
And the hurricane starts in three... two...
one... NOW! We start with rain... then win... then debris... The trunk is taking
a lot... but it stays in place! Windspeed: 156 MPH. Rainfall: 700 gallons a
minute. Coconut velocity: 137 MPH with an impact force of 1800.
End result... CATCH! They're going to Costa Rica!
But what about Mike's solution? It is... ALSO a
Next week, another three engineers, another prize
package, and another method of destruction. Remember.. .if they catch it... they
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