Week 8

With only 2 weeks left until our August 1st unveiling at the downtown LEAF festival, it’s crunch time.  On Monday morning we had an extensive list to tackle. The priority was to complete the dual wing assemblies and welding so that we could test them on the wing as well as completing the wood canopy structure. Susan Russell oversaw our welding techniques. Ed Dale completed most of the trailer welds, having had prior welding experience. David and Calum learned how to weld over the course of the past two weeks and were able to complete the wings with Susan’s assistance, as well as an awesome team of grinders. David also got the trailer jacks attached.

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The wings wait to be primed

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Springs for the wings!

On Wednesday we took the trailer down to Hoss Haley’s. He was able to help us with remaining welds and used his fork-lift to help us get the wings on the trailer with the springs in place. Got torsion springs and dowel on/wings attached- highlight! Back at AB Tech we painted, stained and treated all the wood and were able to assemble the canopy pieces. By Friday all the metal on the trailer was completed.


Assembled canopy pieces

Saturday we made adjustments on our canopy pieces, and primed the trailer for paint. Sunday a small group came in to paint the trailer and wings. We ended the week with an awesome adventure at Lake James on Leigh’s boat! Thanks Leigh!


Wooden flooring dries in the AB-Tech woodshop


Fun in the sun on Leigh’s boat

This post was written by our forewoman of the week Christina Booher


So many details

With much of the heavy lifting complete, the team has moved on to a preponderance of detail-oriented tasks. Lizete focuses on some precision woodcutting at the jigsaw.


Lizete attempts to ignore the photographer while she works with sharp objects.


Lizete at the jigsaw.

These two steel pieces of the canopy superstructure (below) were torch-cut. Torch-cutting resulted in a more imprecise outcome than the structure requires, so Ashley marked the outline with a sharpie and finished the job with a hand-held grinder. These two steel pieces will cradle the central canopy beam. Eventually they’ll get painted Electric Lime green.


Ashley compares the torch-cut pieces to a wooden pattern.

Meanwhile, Melody drilled holes for the bolts that will join metal to wood on the stage. She periodically stopped the machine to oil the drill bit. Afterwards, she carefully scraped away metal built up around the sides of the hole – it’s sharp, and could injure someone.


Melody at the drill. 


Melody scrapes shredded metal from a plate.  


Christina uses the wheel grinder to sharpen a tool

Canopy Superstructure Complete!

Hoss Haley has generously volunteered to finish the welds on the side of the trailer. Right now, these steel pieces are tacked on. For the uninitiated among us, that means they’re held by small temporary welds. It’s the welding equivalent of a basting stitch!IMG_6135


The squad examines the work ahead of them.

Lizete and Allison teamed up to troubleshoot an engineering problem on the computer. The joint at the top of the canopy arch must be held together by a piece of steel, but some math is necessary to determine what size is appropriate.


Lizete and Allison discuss their conclusions with Luke Perry.


Lizete checks the canopy specs.

All four wooden supports of the canopy are complete! The stain, purchased from EarthPaint Asheville, was selected because it was environmentally friendly, durable, and easy to source locally. The color came out great!


Two of the finished canopy beams (above) and the specs they’re based on (below).


Drill baby drill!


Caitlin in the zone

By Wednesday, the entire team had crossed over from grumpy tired to hysterical-laughter tired. “There is no being a girl,” a once female-identified student said, “There is only building.”

IMG_6314Meanwhile, Chad and Calum work on the metal frame for the wings, which will fold down over the wheel wells of the trailer. See those holes in the steel? That’s where the springs will go. The springs allow the wings to fold down safely (so no one gets bonked on the head by the massive weight of a wing) and easily (so two people can easily set up the U-LEAF stage).IMG_6204 IMG_6206

Coming together!

At the end of last week, the floorboards of the stage were fitted with metal braces to support the beams of the canopy.


This Monday at A-B Tech, the students finished welding risers to the base of the trailer.


DesignBuild student Ed lines up the steel risers on the trailer base.


Lizete grinds the the metal smooth to prepare a section of the trailer base for additional welding. A set of screens allows several students to work on the trailer at once by deflecting sparks.


Lizete’s section!

In the woodshop on Monday morning, students treated the wood and laid it out to dry.


Drying lumber overtakes the woodshop on Monday

In the woodshop, students work on the wooden parts of the canopy by fitting angled joints and cutting lumber to size. Miriam advises the students on how to avoid problems with knots in the lumber.

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Chad fits an angled joint in the woodshop.


Caitlin measures a joint to make sure it’s snug


Chad and Caitlin work together to cut an angled joint


Measure twice, cut once!


Stephanie trims the wood to size.

The Patton Avenue Sherwin Williams store donated 1 gallon of paint and primer for the visible steel sections of the U-LEAF. The students chose this vibrant “Electric Lime”. Remember those models the students have been working so hard on? The metal sections on the model are represented by walnut wood (the darker color).


“Electric Lime”


Getting ready to weld!

On Monday the students focused on prepping the trailer base for welding. The textured trailer surface must be smoothed out with a grinder anywhere that welding will take place. Under the supervision of A-B Tech welding instructor Susan Russell, who taught the students to weld last week, students are cutting the final beams that need to be welded to the base of the structure.


A-B Tech welding instructor Susan Russell displays the results of grinding.

Meanwhile, students in the woodshop built models and drafted out design changes. A new 1″ scale model takes into account some updates to the canopy structure and addresses the true scale width of the beams. Another student is drafted a section of the stage that must be lowered 1/4″ to accommodate welding –  a small change with a big impactIMG_5787On Wednesday, students continued to work on the trailer frame. They began installing joists on the floorboards of the trailer to provide support for the canopy beams.


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Week 6


Last Tuesday, the team met with LEAF to discuss the latest design moves and make sure we were keeping on target.  During our conversations, we discovered some needs that were not met, such as the need for a complete rain covering over the stage.  Up to that point, we had designed a covering that acted as a shading device, but this new requirement shifted our focus for the canopy.  To make better use of our remaining time and materials budget, the team developed a two-part plan for the new design.  The central canopy over the actual trailer will be of a lightweight rigid material, such as polycarbonate or corrugated plastic sheathing, and the canopy over the unfolded wings will be of a retractable canvas.  The wing coverings will be later acquired by LEAF as funding permits.  The structure was simplified to accommodate the rigid panels, and the steel component was lowered to support additional members, resulting in a more efficient design. Another thing to consider was that they would have an hour and a half for stage set up at a typical event. We discussed including community input by allowing children to paint the auxiliary boxes designed by the team.

Over the week the team finished a full scale mock-up for the superstructure. This allowed us to finalized the height of the frame and visualized the space on the stage.


We also learned how to weld! We have a new volunteer from AB Tech who will be overseeing the metal work. Susan has already contributed her time and expertise.


With Susan’s guidance we prepared the trailer for construction. Several team members focused on grinding the contact points for future welds and removing unneeded pieces.

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At the same time, other students cut the steel posts to weld to the deck of the trailer. There was also a group who focused on honing their welding skills.


There were several pieces ordered during the week including mechanical assist components:

1. Jacks

2. Winches

3. Paint

4. Flat bar steel for hinge tabs to be CNC plasma cut at Clemson.

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With construction under way, the team looks forward to seeing the U-LEAF come to life!


Raw materials are in!


Luke Perry is pretty excited about the donation from Sunbrella!

With many of the students going home for Independence Day last weekend, the students had to rush to get everything done with only four days of work. They built a 1″ model of the U-LEAF stage in preparation for a visit from Michelle and Tim, who are consulting the students on engineering aspects of the design. They discussed the placement of the winches and the distribution of stress on the canopy, which will drive the material (wood or steel) that must be used.


Christina Booher explains how the overhang will function with the help of a model.

The team has determined the the ULEAF will unfold both long walls of the trailer. A major design challenge for our students was the wheel well of the trailer, because it demands that the stage floor be elevated off the trailer base. A wooden model built by the team (shown below) demonstrates how this challenge was overcome. The side folds down over the wheel well with the help of a strong spring (for ease of use and safety), and the gap is filled like a puzzle-piece.


DesignBuild students David Koontz and Chad Ekre demonstrate how the stage will expand over the trailer’s wheel well to visiting instructors.


All hands on deck! The students put the finishing touches on a 1″ scale model before the guest instructors arrive.