Buoy Ant Evo 1

Evo 1

The first evolution of Buoyant had a different spelling of his name than the one he's known by today, initially being called Buoy-Ant. He was created to take part in the swimming challenge for Techo Games. Once Simon had constructed the frame and the gears that would power the paddles, the controllers were wired up to the radio controller borrowed from Chompalot, and surgically implanted into Buoy-Ant. All was set for the first waggling of his legs. On the initial test, Simon eased the Transmitter controls forward and by golly Buoy Ant burst into life, but after a few moments, smoke started billowing from the motors and it was back to the drawing board.

We applied to take part and were invited along to the qualifiers that took place at the Think Tank, part of the Birmingham Science Museum in October 2001. On the day we arrived at the Think Tank, Buoy-Ant's little paddles had only been in the bath, as we hadn't fully tested him, so we weren't sure how he would perform at the trials. As it turned out he did rather well and we went home at the end of the day excited and waiting to hear if we were in the show or not.

Full of enthusiasm we decided to do a proper test to see how fast he really was and so we rushed off to the Markeaton Park where they have a small boating lake. On the first run we managed 1 min and 20 secs, that wouldn't do at all! Evo 1's paddles moved at the rate of two in the water and two out on both sides, staggered, the paddles just 'slapped' the water and didn't really propel us forwards, so it was back to the drawing board to have a rethink.

Evo 2

For Evo-2 we changed to flat perspex paddles, he went a bit faster but there was still lots of splashing and not much movement. So Simon switched the gearing so that the paddles were all in synch and raised the ride height, the next test achieved a time of 40 seconds. This was better but there was still lots of scope for improvement.

We made plans to acquire better motors and floats but we were holding off until we got confirmation that we were in the competition before we spent any more money. The confirmation duly came a few days later so we proceeded with the upgrades. The floats on Evo-1 were made from high density foam, which got water logged and slowed Buoy-Ant down.

So after a lot of advice from Neil, a work colleague of Simon's, and a redesign coupled with a lot of time putting them together, a new set of floats materialised. They consisted of plywood shells, (the plywood having been supplied by Neil) with a coat of sanding sealant and a covering of metallic grey solar film. They looked lovely, but would they do the job? To find out we went to the local canal for a trial and knocked a whole 5 seconds off our previous best time taking us down to 35 secs.

We were cutting it fine time wise, and the day before we were to travel to Shepperton Studios to film Techno Games, Simon decided to fit new motors, and after fitting we decided to take Buoy-Ant for another test swim in the local canal! We carefully placed him in the water we were all set, Debs counted down and off Buoy-Ant went, then there was a horrible whirring whizz noise, followed by a plop and one of the worm drives dropped off, falling into the depths of the canal, never to be seen again. This was about 6pm on the night before we travelled, so Simon spent most of the night at the lathe turning a new worm drive and installing it. He got to bed at 2am and got up at 6am for the drive to Shepperton! How we faired can be viewed on the Techno Games page.

Evo 3

We decided to replace the worm drive with a gear train, the original worm drive was out of an old windscreen wiper motor, modified to fit the 540 motor. However, it was a bit of a bodge job, so a it needed to be done properly.

We replaced the nylon bushes with bearings and the nylon legs with carbon fibre tubes and changed the leg guides from a complicated arrangement, to some slots cut in to pieces of aluminium angle.

Buoyant's head changed in Evo 3 as well, the front 'pincers' were discarded, they were difficult to hold in place and were forever falling off. So when we came to shape the head for Evo 3 we added a flashy head crest, although Debs still maintains it makes him look like Elvis, he was also given green eyes instead of the original orange colour. His lego 'antennas' remained, alternating in colour betwenn black and purple.

Amazingly the plastic bottles that have always formed his body were held together with staples from an everyday staple gun and some invisible tape, both proving to be durable and water proof, they are still holding Buoyant together to this day!

Buoyant Evo 3 is currently on loan to Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making (March 2016 - Current Date).