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RULAV is pronounced "AWESOME"
February 22, 2011 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Rarely does building a treehouse require welding, grinding, painting, riveting, bending, crimping, plumbing, brazing, laser cutting, sound design, printed circuit board fabrication, thousands of lines of C code, distributed network protocols, sewing and embroidery. Ours did.

The Ravenna Ultra Low Altitude Vehicle is a hexagonal capsule, 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) high, atop a tripod 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) high, for an overall height of about 15 feet (4.6 meters). It is about 6.5 feet (2 meters) across at its widest point.

The frame is welded mild steel with riveted aluminum siding. It contains nearly 800 LEDs forming dozens of numeric displays spread across 14 control panels, each with an acrylic face laser-cut and etched with labels such as "Lunar Distance" and "Hydraulic Pressure". The pilot controls the rocket using a joystick and panels full of working switches, knobs and buttons. Underneath the capsule are three "thrusters" that shoot plumes of water and compressed air under the control of the pilot's joystick, simulating real positioning thrusters. Takeoff and docking sequences are augmented by a paint-shaker that simulates the vibration of a rocket engine. Sound effects complete the illusion, with a powered subwoofer that gives the rocket a satisfying rumble.


It's basically the treehouse that you dreamed of your dad building when you were 6 years old and obsessed with NASA, except that these guys actually went out and did it (with some help from their friends, and a lot of supplies from Boeing Surplus).

In addition to the tour / intro video, the site features design details, build history, prototyping info, schematics, and even a downloadable version of the treehouse's RULOS operating system.
posted by BZArcher (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The mission patch really makes it.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's basically the treehouse that you dreamed of your dad building when you were 6 years old

No, that would be the six story one they showed on WGBH's Zoom. I'm still dreaming about it. This one is nice too, though.
posted by bondcliff at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops. Small correction - it looks like the blog was actually mostly written (and the RULAV designed) by Elliot's Mom, which honestly makes it even more awesome. :)
posted by BZArcher at 12:00 PM on February 22, 2011


that would be the six story one they showed on WGBH's Zoom

Sadly, we all meet our ends with many a Zoom Do left undone.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing I probably will never have children, because I am fairly certain they would never forgive me for not being equally awesome.
posted by aramaic at 12:09 PM on February 22, 2011


I'm such a bad parent :-(
posted by sineater at 12:12 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I gotta say, it's not a treehouse unless it's in a tree. It is awesome, though.
posted by fancyoats at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I WANT ONE NOW
posted by grubi at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2011


The countdown sequence is pretty sweet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2011


That's not a treehouse, it's an escape module!

(It lets the kids escape from the real world to the awesome world of living in a spaceship, naturally.)
posted by quin at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, why would you minimize building a rocket ship by trying to pass it off as a treehouse? I mean, treehouses are cool too, but come on!
posted by rkent at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Treehouses are subject to fewer regulatory hurdles.
posted by exogenous at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is so, so, unbelievably cool. If there's a Dad Of The Year award, this guy gets it.

I also love how thoroughly they documented the construction process. My favorite tidbit:
A friend of ours is a professional aeronautical chemist. He designs the paints and coatings that stick to Boeing jetliners. We didn't ask him for advice. Instead, I sprayed quart after quart of Rustoleum onto our airframe.
posted by schmod at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2011


So this treehouse... it vibrates?
posted by Perplexity at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


I had fun playing like this when I was around 6 but I used a refrigerator box and played with LEGO inside.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like planning it and building it was way more fun than the actual result. The "blast-off" would get old pretty quickly, once you've shown all your friends, and there's not a whole lot of room to, well, do anything in it. The process of creating it, on the other hand, must have been a blast.
posted by halogen at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tie between Angry Birds cake Dad and this Dad, but only because Rocket Ship Dad didn't give the kid a moon rover to tool around in once he lands.

Seriously, though, this is awesome. As a Mom of boys myself, I'd bet good money this kid jumps off the topof that ship once he's a little older.
posted by misha at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2011


This is completely freaking awesome. That said, I think a great addition would be a small (detachable/portable) DVD player running video loops of outer space/planets/the universe.

And a fog machine! :D
posted by bayani at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty awesome but I wish it offered fewer ways for a kid to lose a finger.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Mom of boys myself, I'd bet good money this kid jumps off the topof that ship once he's a little older.

To boldly jump off what no kid has jumped off before...

It's a male imperative.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2011


To boldly jump off what no kid has jumped off before...

It's a male imperative.


Joe Beeese: You misspelled "pee".
posted by The Bellman at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. As stated, this is NOT a tree house.

2. I hope that the neighbors live a LONG way away, because if that was in my neighbor's yard I would be pulling the plug on the noisy contraption pretty quickly.

3. Seattle, where it rains, and that much exposed electronics in a metal frame with kids in it? Thank god it runs on 12 volts!

All that said, it's pretty neat.
posted by tomswift at 12:47 PM on February 22, 2011


This is cool, but as a treehouse it fails the very simple criterion of not being in a tree.

(I always wanted my treehouse to be more like something out of The Mysterious Cities of Gold.)
posted by Eideteker at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is so awesome it probably transcends space-time and now I know why I shit my pants that time when I was ten.
posted by cmoj at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2011


not a whole lot of room to, well, do anything in it

Plenty of room to read, which is what I did in my treehouse. (OK, it wasn't really a treehouse, it was just a cherry tree with a spot up in the branches that formed a fairly comfy seat. But still.)
posted by JoanArkham at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2011


Haters gonna hate....
posted by schmod at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2011


Meh, wake me when they've built it as a full flight simulator with 3-axis motion...

I kid, I'm jealous- this is apparently "Cool parents" week at Metafilter
posted by hincandenza at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2011


I was a little bummed that it didn't actually go anywhere, which really only solidifies the fact that I'm a total brat.
posted by pwally at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2011


Wait... its not a treehouse and it was built by the parent who is not the father? I'd better rtfa to find out what this thread is actually about then
posted by infini at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2011


A treehouse with C code?

No thanks - do you know how hard it will be to explain to non-developers how my child was killed by a bad pointer?
posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2011


So, it doesn't actually go anywhere?
posted by kenko at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2011


This is possibly the ultimate geek family:

Well, that logo's so classy, it needs to go on a patch! I could have had it done for maybe $80 at some web vendor. But why do that when we can spend $200 on craigslist for an old embroidery machine, and learn to do it ourselves? The embroidery software I used to do the patch was pretty awful. In the spirit of do-do-it-yourself-yourself, I wrote my own embroidery software for inkscape.


Of course you did!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


The steel mesh floor serves as a visual reminder that earth is a only few feet away, and sort of ruins the fantasy.

Still: Neat-o!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:42 PM on February 22, 2011


> The steel mesh floor serves as a visual reminder that earth is a only few feet away, and sort of ruins the fantasy.

Ah, but remember how much bigger everything was when you were a kid!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2011


So, it doesn't actually go anywhere?

It will go wherever a healthy imagination can take you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:12 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


It will go wherever a healthy imagination can take you.

Yeah, but you hardly need Boeing surplus or thousands of lines of C for that.
posted by kenko at 3:16 PM on February 22, 2011


Pumpkins did it.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:40 PM on February 22, 2011


Those guys seem awesome. One of them used a phototransistor, an infrared LED, and an oscilloscope to measure the accuracy of a Lomo camera's mechanical shutter.
posted by therewolf at 3:47 PM on February 22, 2011


Yeah, but you hardly need Boeing surplus or thousands of lines of C for that.

True, but it doesn't do any harm.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2011


Neat, but yeah, I'm with halogen. This seems to be more about the adults' building (and bragging) experience than the kids' playing experience.

It's a super-sweet rocket ship, but that's all it is. Once you've played that game a few dozen times, what next?

It's like an expensive electronic toy that does exactly one or two things vs. a bag of Legos, a refrigerator box, or...a little wooden room in a tree.

What gets boring first?
posted by gottabefunky at 4:33 PM on February 22, 2011


When I was a kid our(my brothers and I) first spaceship was a cardboard box. We then graduated to the combine cab. Then my parents got a minvan. Things got really complicated when we decided it would be a good idea to back the minivan as close as we could to the combine. If I remember correctly the idea behind that was that we could use The combine as an escape pod for when our minivan was blown up by enemy fire.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:39 PM on February 22, 2011


It's a good thing the kid's wearing a helmet when he climbs the ladder and opens the door, because it's made of metal and the hinged side is angled well forward. Which means it swings downward, under its own weight, when unlatched.

They need to put a damper on that hatch because somebody's not gonna be expecting it, get clocked in the head and fall backwards off the ladder. The corner looks a little on the pointy side too.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:57 PM on February 22, 2011


I noticed that, too.

Ideally, the door would also be split in two (one half hinges right, other hinges left), so you don't have that dangerous swing-out of such a wide and heavy door. Or maybe some sort of garage-door type dealy.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:26 PM on February 22, 2011


-2 pts for chickening out on the hydrazine thrusters.
posted by ryanrs at 7:08 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It strongly resembles a deer feeder. In hotter climates your children would cook in that solar oven. It's pretty cool and they worked hard on it, but it seems like the novelty would wear off quickly.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2011


Also, it seems to have been built by the adults and not at all by the kid it was intended for. The kid would have gained far more by helping to build even a crap treehouse than just being handed this elaborate toy.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2011


Also, it seems to have been built by the adults and not at all by the kid it was intended for.

Don't let facts get in the way of your hate-on.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:55 AM on February 23, 2011


That kids is going to drop a deuce working that riveter.
posted by GuyZero at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2011


Heh. I think he's more wincing in anticipation of the snapping sound.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:09 PM on February 23, 2011


So, to evaluate exactly how awesome this is:
If you could buy these for $10,000, would you get one for your kids?
$5,000?
$2,000-but-built-a-bit-crappier-and-simpler?
posted by -harlequin- at 7:17 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-: So, to evaluate exactly how awesome this is: If you could buy these for $10,000, would you get one for your kids?

You are not getting the awesomeness here. It is 10% the end product, 90% the process. When my kid is interested in NASA, I buy him a book and maybe some space ice cream. I don't embark on a months-long family engineering project to build him a frickin' lunar lander.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 AM on February 24, 2011


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