Projects

The two most famous projects that occur each year are Interhovse and Ditch Day, which every house participates in. However, lots of moles also like to also work on smaller-scale projects throughout the year. Here is a (very small) sampling of cool projects that I remember from last year:

  • Hellride
This annual tradition, peculiar to Blacker Hovse, is probably the most construction-intensive Blacker event after Interhovse and Ditch Day. In it, the frosh attempt to play Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” (which is strictly banned at Caltech except for 7am during finals week, or if it is played as part as Wagner’s entire cycle of four operas: The Ring of the Nibelung) for as long as possible as the upperclassmen attempt to shut it off. This is traditionally done by barricading the speakers in the all-frosh alley Hell (thus the name Hellride). There have been stories of moles going so far to shut off The Ride as destroying walls, breaking down doors, and once even shooting the speakers when they were mounted at the top of a palm tree.
After several clandestine meetings in the ASCIT screening room, we decided to take the traditional route and hold Hellride in Hell, since this had not been done very much after the renovation of the South Hovses primarily due to fear of excessive damages. After deciding on Hell (specifically, Robb’s room), we made Hell “frosh-only” by closing off the entrances with black plastic, and then started collecting materials as Robb emptied out his room. Among these materials was lots of tires and concrete:

The plan was to replace Robb’s door with a reinforced concrete block, with pieces of tire bolted to the front to absorb much of the inevitable sledgehammer blows. In this picture, about 1/3 of the block had been poured:

We also needed to barricade the window. This was to be accomplished with 4x4s and concrete. Here’s the form for the window defense; concrete was to be poured in later:

At this point, after several weeks of planning and gathering materials, we were less than a week from the event. However, the morning after these pictures were taken, a Housing employee walked through Hell and, suspicious that Robb’s entrance was covered with black plastic and a sign that said “Frosh Only”, peeked behind. Needless to say, when Housing found out that the room had been emptied of everything (including the door and window) except construction materials, 4x4s on the window, and a partially poured door barricade, they weren’t very happy. They told Brad, the hovse president, that if it wasn’t restored to its original condition within a couple of days we would be paying for it. So sadly, our Hellride was shut down by Housing. But we still held a makeshift Hellride that night, which was still pretty fun even though The Ride only lasted a couple of seconds.

  • Quadcopter
Russell (a frosh) was working on a quadcopter throughout last year, which he recently completed.
  • Rcandy rockets
Some of us decided that a cool project would be to make homemade rockets. Around this same time, Russell was building a quadcopter, and so our ultimate goal was to be able to launch these rockets from the quadcopter. But we needed to finish the project in time for our annual camping trip in the desert, since it wasn’t really courtyard-safe. The propellant was made from a mixture of approximately 65% KNO3 (oxidizer) and 35% sucrose (fuel). Due to the large sucrose content, the propellant is affectionately referred to as rcandy, short for rocket candy. Unfortunately, the project ran into more hurdles than expected, and when we tried to launch one during the camping trip the rocket’s nozzle blew off, resulting in the rocket burning up its fuel on the ground for a few seconds before exploding. We picked up the project again this summer.
Here’s the rocket exploding:

  • Exploding CDs
We were trying to launch CDs by spinning them on a dremel, and then flicking them off. While we weren’t able to make them actually fly, we did discover that if a CD with extremely high rotational velocity touches the ground, it explodes. Probably not the safest of endeavors, but incredibly entertaining.
  • Pressurized water cannon
A pressurized water cannon. Built before my time.