UW-Madison Bucky Wagon Project

October 17, 2011

The Bucky Wagon at UW-Madison Homecoming 2011

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 11:10 am

Here’s a slideshow of all the fun we had over the weekend showing off the Bucky Wagon to students and alumni in Madison for homecoming celebrations.

From the murmurs in the crowd at the homecoming parade, it seems like a lot of students and alumni heard all about the new and improved Bucky Wagon’s journey to this its debut by reading and watching stories about it last week, and for that we owe great thanks to all the local media that helped get the word out:



Lots of very kind print stories were published as well: 
Wisconsin State Journal
Channel 3000
Channel 27
Appleton Post-Crescent
Fox 11 in Appleton
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

October 12, 2011

Bucky Wagon: Ready for Launch

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , , — markonfire @ 3:03 pm

The Bucky Wagon made the trek back from Appleton on Monday. Now, only some last minute polish is necessary to get it ready for the big debut at the homecoming parade on Friday. Bower and his students had to clean bugs off the Bucky Wagon from its ride home on a trailer, and ride home on a trailer, and every so often a faculty member will stop by the garage to see what the finished wagon looks like with all the lights on at once. Students are still tinkering with things like the programmable message board at the top, and Bucky himself has yet to check out his new ride before the parade. But after a two year journey, the Bucky Wagon will finally be back in action soon.

The Bucky Wagon, with all the lights on high. Note the LED spotlight on the grill, just so Bucky remains visible even during night games.

The Bucky Wagon, with all the lights on high. Note the LED spotlight on the grill, just so Bucky remains visible even during night games.

Pierce Manufacturing didn't just stick this plaque in place in exchange for all their hard work–it's covering a small hold in the original body piece that was no longer necessary.

Pierce Manufacturing did not just stick this plaque in place in exchange for all their hard work–it is covering a small hold in the original body piece that was no longer necessary.

The new steering wheel is smaller, but still easier to handle than the old steering column.

The new steering wheel is smaller, but still easier to handle than the old steering column.

The Wisconsin Alumni Association and the College of Engineering give a huge thanks to Glenn Bower, his students and the corporate donors that all worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.

The Wisconsin Alumni Association and the College of Engineering give a huge thanks to Glenn Bower, his students and the corporate donors that all worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.

October 7, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: Hidden Additions

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , , — markonfire @ 11:01 am

Engineers at Pierce Manufacturing didn’t just re-create the stock 1932 LaFrance fire wagon. They have nearly a century’s worth of experience in designing fire engines, and it made sense to use the benefit of their experience to improve on the original design for the Spirit Squad’s unique needs. They redesigned the bed of the truck with better seating and storage than ever before. And new diamond plating and reinforced rails will keep the running boards firm and able to support any number of Spirit Squad members.

Pierce also helped Glenn Bower retool the wagon to better fit the mission of creating a greener vehicle. LED emergency lights now top the wagon and will cut back on electricity use.  Pierce also supplied what appear to be fire hose hookups … but don’t try to use them: Bower and other engineers removed the vehicle’s heavy water pump to reduce strain on the electric motor.

While the engine might not be able to actually fight fires, it will be able to carry more Spirit Squad members further distances. And that’s probably more important in the long run. Bucky isn’t a trained firefighter, after all.

The wagon bed, now with more storage.

The wagon bed, now with more storage.

LED lights replace traditional spinning lights.

LED lights replace traditional spinning lights.

Gauges that disguise the fact that the Bucky Wagon cannot actually fight fires.

Gauges that disguise the fact that the Bucky Wagon cannot actually fight fires.

LED lights replace traditional spinning lights.

The pump facade in place.

October 4, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: New Paint Job

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 12:41 pm

The major components of the Bucky Wagon made it through Pierce Manufacturing’s painting facility early last week, and since then the body has been nearly completely reassembled. The hood now has a Pierce logo stamped on the grill, and with good reason–the engineers there have fabricated at least half the wagon’s body pieces, in some cases reinforcing and re-imagining them in the process. But the most striking development is the snazzy new coat of Badger-red paint on everything–the photos don’t even do it justice. Make sure to attend the homecoming parade this year just to experience the full effect.

Pieces of the Bucky Wagon, some new, some just due for painting, wait their turn in the Pierce painting facility.
Pieces of the Bucky Wagon, some new, some just due for painting, wait their turn in the Pierce painting facility.

Pieces of the Bucky Wagon, some new, some just due for painting, wait their turn in the Pierce painting facility.

The painted pieces arrive at the garage.
The painted pieces arrive at the garage.

The painted pieces arrive at the garage.

Mechanical engineering faculty associate Glenn Bower works on assembling the new body pieces.

Mechanical engineering faculty associate Glenn Bower works on assembling the new body pieces.

September 26, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: Under the hood (technically, under the seats)

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , , , — markonfire @ 3:31 pm

A cracked transmission put the Bucky Wagon out of commission in the first place, so the installation of a new transmission and motor is a pretty monumental step in finishing the revamped wagon. Still, the assembly of the electric motor, donated by Remy International, and the transmission, from ZF Transmissions, seems somewhat unceremonious, partly because it’s the sort of thing that members of the vehicle team do all the time. Here you can see members of the vehicle teams goofing around near the new motor and transmission before they bolt them together using an adaptor system designed by other students in the program. The new engine won’t be under the hood, but instead beneath the body of the wagon. Now, the hood will house all the batteries necessary to keep the wagon running. The engine provides enough power to get the wagon up to around 30 mph. It’s not exactly a speed demon—but there’s more than enough oomph to ferry the Spirit Squad around in style on game day.

From left to right: Formula SAE Team member Kevin Higgins, the electric motor donated by Remy International, and the transmission donated by E&F Transmission.

From left to right: Formula SAE Team member Kevin Higgins, the electric motor donated by Remy International, and the transmission donated by ZF Transmissions.

A closer look at the motor and the transmission, before they were bolted together using a student-designed adaptor system.

A closer look at the motor and the transmission, before they were bolted together using a student-designed adaptor system.

Kevin and the other students work to use the adaptor system to connect the transmission and motor.

Kevin and the other students work to use the adaptor system to connect the transmission and motor.

Building the Bucky Wagon: Same Classic Siren

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 3:08 pm

The Bucky Wagon’s siren has been cleaned and polished to a new shine, but it’s still the same siren the wagon sounded in Camp Randall in 1973. Not only does it maintain the look of the wagon, the siren–along with the old headlights, which also are cleaned up originals–are some of the most valuable parts of the wagon, fetching several thousand dollars apiece when up for sale. Unfortunately, engineers designing fire engines in the 1930s weren’t all that concerned about electricity use, so the siren is a huge power draw. If left unchecked, that power draw could spell trouble for an all-electric vehicle, so Bower and his team have worked around the siren’s limitations: A controller will prevent the siren from wailing for too long or too often, depending on battery levels. A few short bursts might be kind of a bummer—but that’s certainly better than forcing the Spirit Squad to push the Bucky Wagon the rest of the way to its destination.

The siren has been cleaned up, but otherwise it will function the same as ever, flaws and all.

The siren has been cleaned up, but otherwise it will function the same as ever, flaws and all.

Mascot Bucky Badger and cheerleaders from the UW Spirit Squad drive along Regent Street in the Bucky Wagon before the Wisconsin vs. Penn State University football game at Camp Randall Stadium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Oct. 11, 2008. Note the same siren on the hood.

September 19, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: Body Work

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 10:37 am

The body of the Bucky Wagon has only recently started to look like something even close to the iconic fire wagon, mostly because restoring the body has been a tedious, time-consuming process. First, the original body went to the Madison College body shop, where rusted-on bolts had to be ground off to free each piece from the body for restoration. With the wagon stripped down to its skeleton, the frame headed to Eau Claire-based EnviroTech to be sandblasted and powder-coated, banishing rust from the renovated wagon’s undercarriage.

Finally, the wagon headed to Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, where it remains while Pierce engineers–mostly working in between other projects, even on weekends in some cases–have stripped each piece of the wagon of its original paint and primed them all for a fresh coat of Badger red. They’ve also reconstructed the parts of the body that were either beyond repair or not designed for the rigors of carrying around the Spirit Squad, leaving a pile of discarded Bucky Wagon parts in their junk heap.

Now, the wagon awaits its final coat of paint. Until then, take a look at photos of the vanilla-flavored body, primed and ready to show its school colors.

Primed and ready for the last coat of paint.

Primed and ready for the last coat of paint.

Pierce Engineers re-assembled parts that could be re-used, and reproduced those that were beyond repair.

Pierce Engineers re-assembled parts that could be re-used, and reproduced those that were beyond repair.

The frame of the Bucky Wagon, shortly before being sand-blasted and powder-coated.

The frame of the Bucky Wagon, shortly before being sand-blasted and powder-coated at Envirotech in Eau Claire.

September 13, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: Tires and Rims

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 1:49 pm

Not everything about the Bucky Wagon could be faithfully brought over to the all-electric version. Most of the changes won’t be visible–the old motor, brakes and steering mechanisms had to go for obvious reasons, but their disappearance will not be immediately apparent to Badger fans watching the wagon glide by. But one necessary cosmetic change is being made to the wheels, specifically the wagon’s rims.

The original Bucky Wagon had split rims, the type that you might see on a tractor, with an outer rim supporting the tire and an inner rim that connects the axle and the tire. This makes tire changes possible without removing the entire wheel assembly, but the design of the rim places a tremendous amount of pressure on the bolts holding rims together. Changing split rims requires a level of experience that students working on the wagon might not have. And then there’s the small point that having students work with a rim nicknamed “the widow maker” probably wouldn’t be popular with parents and administrators.

Swapping the cumbersome old rims for new rims from Alcoa became a matter of necessity–they may not look like something that came off the assembly line in 1931, but the custom-made rims look pretty sharp just the same.

Glenn Bower explains the dangers of the old split rim design.

Glenn Bower explains the dangers of the old split rim design.

Shiny custom-made aluminum rims, courtesy of Alcoa.

Shiny custom-made aluminum rims, courtesy of Alcoa.

 

September 1, 2011

Building the Bucky Wagon: Batteries Included

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: , , , , — markonfire @ 11:47 am

It’s been a few months since the last update on our intrepid Bucky Wagon.

Frankly, it’s in pieces.

But trust us, that’s a good thing–the entire body has been disassembled to be primed and repainted a glorious Badger red. The frame has been rebuilt and powder-coated. New pieces of the wagon arrive in the garage every week, as Glenn Bower and his students work tirelessly getting the Bucky Wagon ready for its debut at this year’s homecoming.

We’re going to be highlighting these pieces on the blog each week as the big day approaches. When the completed wagon finally comes together, expect a sneak peak at the big reveal.

First up, we’re talking about power: the lithium-ion battery pack donated by A123 Systems—something that’s definitely new to the old fire engine. The huge battery array in the Bucky Wagon will be regulated by a controller that ensures the batteries are depleted evenly and at a safe temperature–warm so that the batteries provide the optimal electrical output, but not so hot as to give Bucky second-degree burns in his seat. The batteries provide enough juice to get the wagon up to a planned top speed of around 30 MPH.

Check back for more updates on the engine, the new tires and more as the wagon comes together.

The Bucky Wagon's new battery array.

Lithium-ion batteries that will power the all-electric Bucky Wagon.

March 3, 2010

Bucky Wagon at MATC

Filed under: Bucky Wagon — Tags: — sandraknz @ 10:40 am

This week, the Bucky Wagon headed over to Madison Area Technical College. The vehicle will stay in the care of MATC faculty and students for much of this spring. The UW-Madison vehicle teams are in the midst of preparations for their other vehicle competitions, meaning they’re a bit short on time and space for the Bucky Wagon this month. Their partners at MATC will continue the renovation project, and we’ll keep you updated on their progress!

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