Date: June 10th, 2019
Miles Traveled: 17
Weather: Partly cloudy, windy and a tad chilly.
Physical Status: Solid
TL;DR: Engineering things, natural history, and creepy wildlife sounds.
After having breakfast with Jon this morning (Jen had… *shudder* jury duty) and attempting to fix my camera for 2 hours, I said my goodbyes and set out on the road at approximately 11:00am.
Today I would be touring through Ann Arbor, Michigan and riding West towards Chelsea to reduce tomorrow’s mileage from 87 to 70.
After rolling one or two miles along quiet suburban streets, I decided to visit one of the University of Michigan’s engineering buildings and walk around for a bit… because, you know… why not?
As I strolled around totally inconspicuously with spandex on and a walk that screamed “I have fucking idea where I’m going right now,” I saw a number of neat projects on display, one of which was called a “Variable Stiffness Prosthetic Ankle Foot” (“VPSA-Foot”, for short).
Essentially, the prosthetic mechanically models an Achilles tendon, the tendon that allows us to stand on our toes and spring off of our feet, through the use of a class 1 lever. By changing the position of the lever’s fulcrum (a small block housed underneath the dark piece of metal that looks like an oversized tuning fork) you can change the elasticity or “springiness” of the prosthetic.
Here, you can see a small linear actuator housed underneath dark piece of metal. This linear actuator moves the metal block, which serves as the fulcrum of the class 1 lever. The closer you move the block to the “ankle” of the prosthetic, the stiffer it becomes — hence the “Variable Stiffness” part of the “Variable Stiffness Prosthetic Ankle Foot”.
The “ankle” of the prosthetic rotates on a small shaft and, when rotated away from its default 90-degree position, causes the dark piece of metal to flex slightly. This emulates the spring-like function of our Achilles tendons.
Directly across the hallway, I also saw a giant, working Rubik’s cube:
No joke, there was a video on how it was designed and fabricated:
…and an inverted pendulum balancing system that made my college ball and beam balancing system look like child’s play:
Here’s a couple more pictures:
Afterward, I hopped back on my bike and traveled to the famed “peony garden” located in the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum.
After spending a brief time at the garden, I biked towards downtown Ann Arbor and happened upon the University of Michigan’s brand new (and totally free) Natural History Museum, featuring a large exhibit about the evolution of life from the tiniest single-celled organisms to the creatures of the modern era. Seeing as I had a couple hours to kill, I ate lunch at the museum’s cafe called “Darwin’s” (he he) and explored the museum for a while:
Even the bathrooms were pretty cool…
After going through the entire museum, I got some early dinner at a sandwich place downtown called “The Wich” and continued riding West to find a place to crash for the night.
During the ride, the weather really cleared up and I enjoyed some low traffic highways and views of beautiful country farmland:
5 miles later, I stopped in Chelsea, Michigan and found a secluded place at the local high school to pitch my tent for the night.
As I chilled in my tent silently working on a blog post, I heard a sound that I had never heard before.
A loud, explosive huffing sound came from outside my tent, maybe 50ft away.
“What. the. fuck was that?” I thought.
There it was again. Slightly louder this time.
At this point, I’ve gone full Pumba internally:
Whatever it is. It’s gonna eat me.
After a minute of silently lying there and several bone-curdling huffs later, I ever so slowly unzipped my tent door and peaked out into the moonlit field.
There, trotting back and forth, was a single deer huffing away, likely trying to alert others of my presence.
After 22 years on this Earth, today I learned that deer huff.
The more you know.
Tomorrow, I’ll be riding 70 miles to Battle Creek, Michigan, where I’ll be staying with a friend of my aunt’s for the night.
Until next time!