Solenoid Project at Circuits I

September 20, 2010

When I was at third year in UIC, I belonged to a Circuits class of Engr Marife N., a fresh graduate at University of San Carlos in Cebu and I believe a cousin of our College Dean Engr. Allan G. As we would become her students in Physics later, we found out about her peculiar habit of using a word more often than the others that we sometimes play bets (without the money, of course) on how many times she would utter the word.

As a teacher, she is very knowledgeable about the subject matter that merely looking at her doesn’t do her justice. Her built can deceivingly look like a professor custom-made to lecture all theoretical lessons. I used to think that teachers are afraid to do practice in real world so they stick with lessons at the University without verifying if lessons are also consistent with lab results. Make no mistake, Engr Marife isn’t like that. In fact she’ll do the job well on subjects that combines brain power and practical I-told-you-it-works-in-real-life projects. No wonder she was chosen to teach us Circuits, not because she is a relative of the Dean or the subject is sort of initiation to newcomers.

Aside from lessons that ask us to differentiate, compute and explain current, voltage, resistance, impedance and so on, she — just like previous professors — asked us to create a solenoid project that will prove electricity powers magnets. This is our first practical project in college since making multitesters — out of a fully functional one — for Engr Rolando B the previous semester.

The building that held Circuits class. No, not this one, the building behind it. to Photo credit: Noel Laud

The project was simple. Create a movable arm that carries an electric powered solenoid and with power, it should carry weight of at least two kilograms. I was grouped with Vincent G. and Jose “Jhoep” P. Or shall we say we picked each other because 1) we are close friends and 2) each of us has his own ulterior motive. On the second reason I don’t have to hide them. In my opinion Jhoep is one of the most easy to get along guys in the classroom. Vincent is sort of the person you’ll deal with if you want to get connected with the who’s who in the campus; he’s a student leader and Corps Commander during our ROTC the previous year.

The favorite place to the project was Jose’s house. Not only he has tools to make things happen, his house also offers some sort of privileges to non-residents. Free meals. Free boarding. Interaction with all members of the family, including his very accommodating mum. A project session obviously happens at non-class hours. Which means after 7pm. We take the rickety Annil bus to Jose’s Gem Village (Ma-a) residence and arrive there just before dinner. Sometimes — when our pockets have something to spare — we arrive there a bit later, after dinner at Cherry’s or Malativas just across the Bonifacio campus.

As customary practice, we are stuck in the television watching the news or a closely monitored Judy Ann Santos telenovela before we can formally start our jobs. The trio of us gets going only when the table is cleared, and other family members head to their respective rooms. But sometimes, we have to wait until 10pm before that happens. And while Jose is also busy helping out in the family — his father died when he was in high school and he is the only boy with six sisters — Vince and I had no choice but (happily) hang on to TV screen or some old VCDs.

At about 11pm, we finally got our acts together. I see Jose starting to saw a piece of wood, Vince winding the coil and me, I actually forgot what I did. But after an hour or so, our exhausted bodies and mentally torn brains have to give way to dozing off. We find ourselves sleeping by the living room, and wake up just in time for breakfast. As Jose’s nephew gets the first priority at the breakfast table before he heads off to school, we are silently staring at our solenoid project, not recalling whether it can lift two pounds, or two kilos, or will it work at all. Heck, we’re scared to even plug it in as it may cause short-circuit and render the house without power for at least an hour.

Finally, with a brief session at breakfast, Vince and I leave Jose. We will meet later at the campus at a 2:30pm Philippine Constitution class. For me, it’s go-home time and settle the rest of my sleep deprivation.