The Dynamics Laboratory of the Ecole Polytechnique de Louvain offers several devices that illustrate the concrete impact of Newton’s law (F=ma) in everyday life. The majority of the devices focus on the functioning of vehicles, but also of certain musical instruments.
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A train runs perfectly in the center of the track thanks to the special shape of its wheels, without requiring a complex steering mechanism. The device described on this page explains in a didactic way the phenomenon of rail guidance of a rail bogie which has been fitted to trains and trams for decades. This project, carried out by three engineering students from the Ecole Polytechnique de Louvain, consists of an experimental bench accompanied by a slide show which explains the different dynamic behaviors that the bench allows to observe: refocusing, limit cycle, etc. even derailment of the bogie. This bench, originally created to illustrate the vehicle dynamics course, is not exclusively intended for EPL students only. Indeed, anyone interested in the subject will be able to visualize and understand rail guidance – more complex than it seems – through a few experiences that will invite them to experience the physical phenomena that ensure the stability of trains. From the first turns of the bogie wheel, the presentations of the bench to internal visitors to UCL and foreigners demonstrated the educational value of the device.
Bicycle without hands? You’ve probably already tried it! In fact, a bicycle can even stand on its own without a rider, as long as it rides fast enough. That’s what you can see on this experimental bench made up of a treadmill on which a bicycle is placed.
When the carpet turns slowly, the bike must be held to stay upright, but as soon as the speed increases, the bike is able to roll on its own and stand upright despite external disturbances. The bench will also help you to understand why it is not so easy to learn to ride a bike: simply because you have to push the handlebars to the left if you want to turn right!
You don’t have a car license yet? Don’t worry, the “kart bench” will allow you to feel how a car reacts under the action of the steering wheel. This device reproduces a car on a reduced scale (1/3). Thanks to the remote steering system, you will be able to observe how the tires and suspensions deform when you take a bend. The bench also allows you to illustrate how certain suspension parameters, such as wheel “toe in/out”, can give the car a sporty feel. You will also feel the importance of the forces applied by the road to the tires that play a key role in the vehicle’s dynamic behavior.
Mathematics and music often go hand in hand! Dynamics also play a role in the functioning of many musical instruments, especially pianos. The way in which a key is struck has a great influence on the sound that is produced: too slowly, no note comes out, too quickly, the instrument no longer follows. With the help of the reproduction of several piano keys and computer simulations, this bench will allow you to follow the evolution of striking mechanics – piano action — from the 18th century to the present day.