Geared Up April 10th Issue

Mech Talks

Workings of Watches

Pierce Labarre                                                                                                                                       Mech

Mech talk’s is an article devoted to the many mechanical based technologies that are abundant in past, present and in the future. This covers anything from the steam engine to the highest end of modern robotics, by describing the function, history, and the impact on our society. Today however, the focus will be on a subtle member of our day to day life, the watch.

In modern society watches are quickly being outdated by smartphones and other electrical devices all of which give the time, however, watches still have a place both in style and their lack of need to be charged every few hours. Watches generalize into two broad categories, quartz and mechanical. Quartz crystal watches are relatively cheap to manufacture and run off of a battery. These are the cheaper watches which can be bought almost anywhere, with a price ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. As demonstrated in figure 1, Quartz watches rely on batteries and circuits, and mostly fall under the electrical designation. However, for an interesting fact:

“The electricity makes the quartz crystal vibrate at a rate of 32,768 per second.” [2]

“The stepping motor sends every 32,768th electrical pulse to the dial train.” [2]

watch 1

Figure 1 – Quartz Crystal Watch [1]

Mechanical watches are more in the scope of the Mech Talks theme and are far more complex then quartz watches. Unlike a quartz watch, mechanical watches do not have a battery and are powered by energy build up in a spring. Mechanical watches have two variants, manual and automatic. Manual watches are wound up by hand, while automatic


Figure 2 – Mechanical Watch Internals [3]

watches are wound by the movement of the wearer throughout the day. These watches are more expensive, but if taken care of, have the ability to never stop keeping time. As shown in figure 2 the watch contains a great many gears and other moving parts, all of which are very small and precise. All of these parts work together to charge and convert the potential energy stored within the main spring into time keeping.

In order to explain how a mechanical watch works, it is key to understand the basic components that make up one of these contraptions.

Crown: The crown is used to manually wind the watch and set the time, it is the part which sticks out the side of the watch. [2]

Mainspring: The mainspring is the spring which stores the potential energy to drive the watch. [2]


Figure 3 – Mechanical Watch Diagram [4]

Gear Train: Transmits energy from the mainspring to the escapement. [2]

Escapement: Takes energy from the mainspring and releases it in controlled equal amounts. [2]

Balance Wheel: Receiving energy from the escapement, oscillates at a set frequency setting the watch speed. [2]

Dial Train: Transmits the energy from the balance wheel to the hands of the watch. [2]

Jewels: Rubies which are used in the center of consistently moving parts. These are to reduce frictional wear to the metal as they are very hard. [2]


Figure 4 – Progressive Watch Function [2]

Now that the parts have all been described, Figure 4 outlines the steps to the function of a mechanical watch.

  1. The turning of the crown or spinning of a rotor on the back, winds the mainspring. [2]
  2. Gear train transfers energy from the main spring to escapement. [2]
  3. Escapement balances the energy into equal amounts. [2]
  4. Balance wheel oscillates at a constant rate using the consistent energy supply. [2]
  5. After a set number of beats, the dial train move the energy to the hands of the watch. [2]

Although this is how a basic mechanical watch functions, this is truly the simplest form of a mechanical watch, many have what is referred to as complications. Complications are features a mechanical watch can have, which makes the mechanism more complicated.

Dual Time Zones: This complication has travelers in mind and allows for the setting of two different time zones on a watch, however these are not limited to only 1 extra time zone and some watches have more. [5]Date Display: The most common addition on a watch, which can come in many forms such as a date window or a pointer date. [5]


Figure 5 –  Mechanical watch with date display [6]

Chronograph: Also known as a stop watch, these are a logical and the second most common complication to add to a watch. These allow the wearer to time events to the second.

Many more: Including moon phases, watch power reserve or even an alarm (involving a small hammer hitting a string inside the watch). [5]

Mechanical watches may seem to be part of the past, with the ease of checking the time on a smart phone or other device, however their reliability, complexity and excellent craftsmanship ensures they always have a place in the society of today as a demonstration of one of humanities more complicated everyday mechanisms.



[1], 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].

[2]W. Movements, “Watch Education – Watch Movements”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].

[3], 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].

[4], 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].

[5]W. Complications, “Watch Education – Watch Complications”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].

[6], 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2016].




Queen’s Space Conference 2016

This year, the Carleton Mechanical and Aerospace Society sent two Carleton students to the Queen’s Space Conference (QSC) at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  This gave students the opportunity to connect with space industry leaders and to learn from space experts like astronaut Robert Thirst.  Below, the two students share their experience at the Queen’s Space Conference. 

Daniel Klub

This past February of 2016 I attended the Queen’s Space Conference in Kingston, Ontario with a few of my fellow Carleton classmates. The intention of this event was to bring together like minded students with an interest in space exploration, technologies and development. The intention was also to expose the student delegates to leaders in academia, industry, government and organizations who are involved with space in some way. Additionally, a big aspect of this conference was to allow the delegates to network and build meaningful connections as they navigate the completion of their academic career and move onto their professional lives. Being a delegate myself, and representing Carleton University, I believe that the QSC 2016 was able to accomplish all of these goals and more.

From the moment I arrived at the Four Points hotel with my fellow Carleton delegates we were able to introduce ourselves and talk shop with a few members of the Queen’s Space Engineering Team. The team is to be competing in the upcoming University Rover Challenge in Utah this June. Moving on, during the initial evening events and talks, the delegates were broken up into separate tables in order to meet and mingle with students from other universities. In some cases the conference speakers were sitting at certain tables, which gave those lucky few a chance to talk it up with space industry professionals.

The second day of the conference involved more networking opportunities between the talks by the speakers and lunch or coffee breaks. The highlight of the day for many delegates including myself was our participation in the case study developed by the chairs of the QSC. This was a challenge presented to the delegate teams based on the tables they were assigned in order to design a viable mission plan and business case for a habitat on Mars’ moon of Phobos. For me, this was the most enjoyable part of the conference weekend as I was able to discuss detailed aspects of space development and exploration with my teammates. Additionally, the final presentations by each team were both insightful as to the different options for the mission, and also hilarious due to the comedic twists some groups applied to their concepts. The evening keynote speaker, Astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, was incredibly interesting and became the highlight for many other delegates at the event. He managed to make his over two hour long talk about his experience in space to be enthralling. This was an amazing feat considering the occasional difficulty in remaining awake after a one and a half hour class lecture.

The final day of the event began with a great breakfast and broke right into a couple great talks by Eric Choi, Kate Howells and Ewan Reid. These speakers were of particular interest because they made an emphasis on how to break into the space industry or how to become involved in the international organizations as a student or young professional. Specifically, Kate Howells stressed the benefit of joining the Space Generation Advisory Council and participating in the Space Generation Congress, which takes place annually in


Speaker and The Planetary Society’s National Coordinator Kate Howells [1]

conjunction with the International Astronautical Congress in different cities around the world. I was also refreshed by Eric Choi’s take on the relationship between science fiction and actual space technology applications. It helps that he is a part of both worlds as a senior technical associate at the Institute for Quantum Computing (University of Waterloo), as well as being a science fiction writer.

When all was said and done at this year’s QSC, I left feeling enriched after having made so many new connections with like-minded students as well as industry professionals. Of course making these connections is good for career development. However, it also provides a method of working on one’s interpersonal soft skills. Additionally, enrichment came in the form of becoming more aware of the available opportunities of employment and participation in space exploration and development. I highly recommend that Carleton Students with an interest in space consider signing up and participating in the Queen’s Space Conference 2017. The team that put together QSC 2016 did a tremendous job, and I have no doubt that the efforts will be outdone for next year’s event.



Juan Posada

From February 5th – 7th I had the immense pleasure of attending the Queen’s Space Conference with six others from Carleton University.  I must say this was an experience I will never forget. From the instance we walked up to the reception, we were greeted with visuals and an atmosphere that would make any space enthusiast jump in sheer joy. From posters and drinks, to a Mars rover driving around (a great opportunity to scope out CPRT’s competition!) and representatives of various space related societies.

During these three days, we listened to experts talk about a wide range of topics that in some way or another related to the space industry. Rover design, the space industry, creating a business model, research on the International Space Station (ISS), and how to get involved with the industry from a young age were some of the matters discussed.

The main highlight of the conference was the opportunity to listen to retired astronaut Robert Thirsk share his experience as he prepared for human space flight, as he boarded on the ISS, his 187 days in space, and the life he’s lead after returning to Earth. The night


Canadian Astronaut Robert Thirsk [2]

of the 6th, those of us with platinum tickets were given the exclusive opportunity to meet with all speakers in a lounge for almost the entire night. How many people can say they’ve drank wine (and later breakfast) with an astronaut? Worth it!

For those of you truly interested in perusing a career in the space industry, or even if you simply find it interesting, I highly recommend attending events such as the Queen’s Space Conference. Not only is the experience unforgettable, but the people you meet and the contacts you form are truly something that can help you get far in life.


[1 ] Z. Harley, “Speaker Info | Queen’s Space Conference”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02- Apr- 2016].

[2] “Robert Thirsk”, Wikipedia, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Mar- 2016].



The Swear that Seized the Skies

Who knew a common day to day inappropriate phrase could be interpreted as a sign of near death?

Whether we stub our toe, do poorly on a test, or simply miss the bus, the “s-word” is a common day to day phrase that we have grown accustomed to saying when something small goes wrong, but what happens when that small phrase becomes a panic for flight service specialists?

For privacy purposes, I am not going to use real names, so I will call the girl in this story Katelyn.  I am from a small town with a small airport, and fortunately we were lucky to have a small flight school.  I was doing “circuits”, which is pretty much flying along the circuit pattern shown in figure 1.

ciruit pattern flight

Figure 1 – Common left handed circuit pattern [1]

I had a pretty good flight and the flight service specialists radioed me inviting me to come to the Flight Service Station (FSS). A Flight Service Station is like an Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, except flight service specialists cannot instruct a plane on what to do, they can only provide information on what is best to do. The flight service specialists were impressed by my short landings and take-offs and offered to show me inside their station.  I was really excited because for a long time I myself wanted to be an air traffic controller.  I quickly parked the Cessna 172 I was flying and happily made my way over to the FSS.  Once inside, the two flight service specialists, who I’ll call Liam and Oscar, showed me how several components of the FSS operated.  Then they showed me how the circuit pattern that I had just been flying looked like from their viewing deck.  I was very fascinated as I was able to see quite far and it was a clear day.

Suddenly, another Cessna 172 radioed that she was coming in from her cross country flight and was going to join the downwind leg of the circuit as she was going to land.  Oscar was the first one to spot her from the viewing deck and pointed to where she was.  It took me awhile to see her, but once I did, I kept my eyes locked on her plane throughout her entire descent.  She then entered the base leg and everything seemed to be going fine, like a normal circuit pattern.  It wasn’t until the base leg when we began to panic.

Katelyn was a student at this flight school, although I had never met her before.  Liam and Oscar said she was doing well at the flight school and she was a quick learner.  She was just finishing her first solo cross country flight and all of her radio calls were made accordingly as she entered the circuit.  Once on the final leg, she made what we thought was her final call before landing.  With a perfectly clear day, the three of us in the FSS were delightfully watching her descent.  That’s when, only a few moments after her last radio call (I can’t remember the exact time), she radioed “oh s—”.


Figure 2 – A Cessna 172, the same model as Katelyn’s plane [3]

According to Liam and Oscar, many pilots’ last words before a plane crash are “oh s—”.  While I was confused as to why she would radio a swear word seeing as you can be fined up to $5000 or be imprisoned [2], Liam and Oscar began to worry and were preparing for the worst.  They were ready to call emergency personnel as they watched her descent carefully.

Oddly enough, everything seemed to be going well in her descent.  In fact, she landed smoothly and continued to make her regular safety checks and radio calls until she parked the plane.  Stunned, Oscar radioed her telling her to come to the FSS immediately.  This is when they had to ask me to leave the FSS so I don’t know exactly what they talked about.

It wasn’t until the next day when I bumped into Liam that he told me what happened. Apparently Katelyn had dropped her glasses on the floor when she was on the final approach.  When she went to pick them up, she accidentally keyed the radio at the moment that she swore, not even realizing what she had done.

That’s all Liam told me.  Fortunately she wasn’t fined or imprisoned, especially because she was a really good student, but I wonder what happened to the recording of that radio call.  I can’t remember who checks those recordings, most likely Nav Canada or Transport Canada, but it makes you wonder if they even heard that call.  Maybe they did but let it go because it was a complete accident and she would never do that as a joke.  Either way, it makes for a good story, and overall I’m glad no one got hurt.  Guess it was just another one of those times where you make a silly mistake, like stubbing your toe, and simply say “oh s—”.


[1]”Airport Traffic Patterns”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 17- Mar- 2016].

[2]S. Telecommunications, “RIC-21 — Study Guide for the Restricted Operator Certificate With Aeronautical Qualification (ROC-A) – Spectrum Management and Telecommunications”,, 2011. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30- Mar- 2016].

[3]”Cessna 172″, Wikipedia, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 01- Apr- 2016].


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