Tag Archives: Andy Wekin

Sky Yurt debuts at the Champlain Makers Faire

DSC06101Lots of visitors, lots of interest

Exhibiting the Sky Yurt at the Champlain Makers Faire was a wonderful experience. We were set up right next to the entrance to the Carriage Barn where all the indoor exhibits were housed. People stopped to read our text display, played with some of the models, and prowled around the Sky Yurt. Kids laid on the the grass and looked up at the sky through the ribs and cross stays. Lots of head scratching, Questions kept emerging. Then as some folks began to understand the design challenges, they began to share ideas. Some conceptual, some very concrete and practical. All thought provoking and useful.

Whirlwind getting ready for the Faire

The three  broken ribs on the structure was really a set back for the team. I was able to replace one and then repair and sister the other two. I got an outer top cover finished, but didn’t have time to test it and the tie down system. So I just went with the framework. My engineer/artist buddy Andy Wekin and his crew Otis and Ezra worked with me to get the legs installed and reinforced. I replaced some broken connectors, made an exhibit poster, and we were ready to roll. It was a scramble to get the structure set up. We got a good start on Friday afternoon and evening. Darla – my main squeeze – pitched in on Saturday morning and just as the first of the crowd trickled in, we were up.

Where to take this project next?

DSC06113I learned a lot from the ideas that visitors shared with me. I’ll post some of them in due time. But the big learnings for me are guiding to the next steps for the project.Time to go back to the drawing board and get a designer/engineer involved who knows tensile/tent structures and can do the math. The yurt structure could be so much lighter and much better engineered. My build/design process can only take me so far. Using off the shelf items, and build/designing as I go, has real limitations. I need to have someone on the team who can look at the whole system and come up with design parameters for the components. For instance, maybe properly sized tubing for the ribs and cross connectors with aluminum hubs. The whole frame structure could be lightweight and go up quickly. So I am putting the building to bed for the winter. When I start next summer, I hope to have a much improved and well thought out design to build from.







A light and strong structure

Strong but not heavy

Sky Yurt - model #3

Sky Yurt – model #3

To hold the Sky Yurt up in the air, and to attach the awning for the workspace I was going to need a strong core structure. But the Sky Yurt itself could be made of much lighter structural materials. It only had to hold itself together, like a pop-up camping tent. I was driving into Willsboro one afternoon and saw a backyard trampoline with a kids low play tent stretched over tramp. I knew about trampolines from my trimaran sailing. A few people jumping on a trampoline generate a strong downward force that needs to be resisted by the frame. So trampoline frames are built to be very strong. .But they are also portable and are pretty light for the stresses they have to deal with.

Using the trampoline frame to hold up the Sky Yurt

For the next model I went hunting for circular rings. Found what I was looking for in a craft shop – those hardwood rings that are used for needlepoint work. I made a new balsa wood and plastic straw model, and I really liked the look and feel of it. I was ready to build my first prototype. Now I was getting into the real building project. My scare-level increased to the point where I thought I might need to start wearing a metaphorical diaper. I asked my friend Andy Wekin – he was an artist who had gone back to school to be an engineer and he came with his partners Otis and Ezra (more on this team later) –  to be the consulting engineer.

Beginning to build the first prototype

Sky Yurt - PVC prototype

Sky Yurt – PVC prototype

I found a trampoline frame on Craig’s List and hauled it home. They are really available,  sort of like old hot tubs and spas. They are in those class of things that at the time seem like a good idea, but they stop being used (you don’t want your kid to break her neck) and  they take up space a lot of space in the outdoors. My friend Robin runs a preschool at a farm. They had a lot of PVC pipe that had been used in an irrigation project, and for a small donation I had my beams. I made hubs out of plywood and scrounged for PVC connectors that I could cut up and experiment with. I had SS wire from some of my old sailing rigs. Mostly I wanted to learn from this first structure -see if the basic engineering  would work, where I would need extra support and how the Sky Yurt structure would interface with the trampoline frame. And it started out looking pretty promising.