September 4, 2013

Rotating Climbing Wall

For REX this year at East Campus, I helped to design and build a rotating climbing wall.

The climbing wall consisted of a twelve-foot diameter by eight-foot wide wooden cylinder suspended on an axle.  The surface of the cylinder was covered in climbing holds.  As the climber progresses, their weight causes the cylinder to rotate opposite the climbing direction.  

The entirety of the construction was done over the course of one week.  Newly arrive freshman were enlisted and armed will drills to screw everything together.  Trying to manage a large (up to ~10 people at times) group of workers, most of whom had never before used power tools was an interesting experience.  For the most part, everything worked out fine.  We were able to get through construction without running into any major problems.

The climbing wall went from this:

To this:

For non-beginners, the climbing wall worked surprisingly well.  We found a setting for the brake that worked for a wide variety of climber weights.  To prevent light (or really fast) climbers from getting too high off the ground, two helpers assisted in the rotation of the cylinder.  The wall was a bit too hard for many people, however.  You start climbing on an overhang, which was difficult to get past.  Later on, we started people out on chairs, so that they could reach the roughly vertical part of the wall.  

More photos and videos can be found in the build log.

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