Posted by: bgtwindad | January 13, 2013

Science Night!

Science Night by BGTwinDad
Science Night, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Last week I was asked to provide a presentation on a science or engineering topic at my daughter’s school. Since most of the other presenters had the “work” and “research” angles well covered, I decided to show something fun.

To the left is a test loop of track that I built.  The loop is broken into 14 blocks that are wired for train detection through a Digitrax BLD168.    The front, back, and left/right curve halves are connected to Digitrax RX4 for transponding detection.  That may be a lot of technical “jargon” for some of you.  The BDL168 detects which of the 14 track blocks the locomotive is on.  The RX4 allows the locomotive to “check in” and report its road number to the computer.

Speaking of the computer, in front of the layout, left to right you see a Digitrax Zephyr Xtra command station, which actually runs the train.  The small box in the middle is a PR3 which is basically a USB connection for the Zephyr.  And then, of course, is the computer.

On the computer (an Apple MacBook Pro), the JMRI software program is running.  It’s displaying a map of the oval,with the train’s location highlighted.  At the same time, it’s running my Virtual Sound Decoder, playing the sound of the engine through the speakers at back, and of course the sound appears to be coming from the locomotive, which is the whole point!

The poster board to the right has some “slides” showing how various sciences (both “hard” and “soft”) can be applied to Model Railroading or any other hobby.

The whole thing was a big hit with the kids, I think.  Either that or they were very polite.  Of course, they were getting extra credit for it!


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