Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Art Applewhite Qubits

The Qubit is another saucer-like object from Art Applewhite's lab. Once built, the Qubit resembles a cube that flies with one of its corners facing upward. I say the Qubit resembles a cube because the bottom faces are missing, which allows the motor mount to be recessed into its body structure. The Qubit comes is several configurations. The basic model features square faces, the Stealth features a serrated trailing edge and the Scimitar features a 's' shaped trailing edge. Only one of the two trailing edges are shaped as mentioned and thus the latter versions spin on the way up. The basic and Scimitar models come with 29mm, 24mm or 18mm motor mounts. The Stealth is also offered in larger 38mm and 54mm sizes. A 13mm version of all varieties can be downloaded for free.

This post will discuss the basic 24mm model, all three 18mm models, and a basic 13mm too. From smallest to largest:

13mm Plain Qubit

I built a beta version that was pre-printed and one that I printed myself. The latter is called 'Dicey' as it resembles a die.

The list of build steps is short:
* Cut out the body, which consists of a single cutout for both the outer shell and bottom sections
* Cut the launch rod and motor mount holes
* Form and install the motor tube

The instructions tell you how large the side of one of the cube faces should be and I recommend you verify this measurement. On the version I printed, the cutout was a tad larger than it was supposed to be. The only issue this caused was that the motor mount hole, was also a bit too big. I compensated by making the cutout of the motor tube a bit longer. Once it was wrapped, the OD was also larger and fit nicely into the motor hole.  These Qubits are shown below, along side a bigger 24mm model.

Finishing the plain version is up to the individual but I was happy with the day-glo orange the beta version was printed on. The 'Dicey' decoration came pre-marked from the printer.  All should get a clear coat to protect the card stock.

The only recommended motor is the A10-PT. All you have to do is friction fit the motor and offset the rocket 6" or more from the blast deflector.

The A10 gives this rocket a nice jump off the pad. Both my Orange Qubit and Dicey flew straight despite the 15+ mph winds. The Orange one suffered some damage prior to launch when the LPR rack blew over. However, with a little masking tape, it was good to go.

Aerobrake..'nuff said. The Orange one landed one car away from my SUV and Dicey actually hit my range box and came to rest just under my SUV. I guess the wind was fairly uniform from flight to flight.

Fun, easy, and FREE! This little guy really rips on an A10! The only issue is that the cardstock will warp easily and may deform under A10 power, but remember the cost!

18mm Plain, Stealth, and Scimitar

These kits, like the previously reviewed 13mm Qubits, are very simple. All three include only the following:

* Two sheets of printed cardstock
* One 2.75" steel motor hook
* Two pages of instructions

Materials required include white glue, an X-Acto hobby knife, a metal ruler, sharp scissors, and an 18mm motor casing.

Each Qubit is built from three cardstock cutouts. The top cutout (bottom right sheet on the first photo) is folded, wrapped around onto itself, and glued together. The tabs on the bottom cutout (bottom middle sheet) are folded up and this is glued into the top section. You merely align and glue the tabs one at a time, making sure the launch rod holes are aligned. The motor tube is rolled from the last cutout. The motor hook is rolled into the motor tube as it is formed. The final step is to insert the motor tube into the shell and glue it in. Could this be simpler?

The plain variety Qubit (parts are shown in the first photo) has a few more folds than the others. Each tab has a set of folds, which allow the formation of a spin tab. I found that it was a bit difficult to form these at the narrow end. This was despite having scored the creases, which is my SOP when working with cardstock. (IIRC, the spin tabs are omitted or at least optional on the newer models.)

I build one whole Qubit and the bodies of the other two in less than an hour. If I had more than one phenolic 18mm motor casing on hand. I would have finished all of them. However, I decided that the motor mount on the first kit should fully dry before I removed the casing. I could have used cardboard casings also, but with the phenolic, you don't have to worry about gluing the motor into the mount.

None is required, however I did run a day-glow orange hi-lighter along the cut edges to help hide the white from the inside of the cardstock.

I flew both sets of Qubits three times. The first two sets were in extremely high winds - about 17mph with occasional lulls. The A8-3 flights were very underpowered for these winds, and all three ejected on or near the ground. This is no longer a recommended motor for these rockets. The C6-0 flights were more satisfying. The Stealth went the highest, followed by the Scimitar and the regular Qubit. The Qubit weathe rcocked the most, which affected its altitude. The Scimitar won the spinning contest. It spun so fast that it emitted an audible whirr, which got everyone’s attention.

I later flew the set of Qubits in light winds. The plain Qubit and the Stealth both boosted very fast and attained a good altitude for a ‘saucer-like’ design. At least one person couldn't believe the motors were C6s. The Scimitar didn't go nearly as high but again spun like crazy. The others appeared to spin (it was hard to see), but the Scimitar really whirred. Interestingly enough, each of the Qubits flew in a different direction: the plain flew slightly perpendicular to the light wind, the Scimitar flew with the wind, and the Stealth flew into the wind. None of the flight angles were large but the differences were noticeable. This is presented basically as a curiosity. Not much else to say...all three came down softly using aerobrake recovery.

24mm Plain Qubit


* Three sides and one bottom piece, all pre-cut out of foam board
* One sheet of printed cardstock with a marking guide and Tip (nosecone) cutout
* 2.75" section of BT-50 for the motor mount

Materials needed:

* X-Acto knife
* Metal ruler
* Elmer's white glue
* DevCon 5-minute epoxy
* Sandpaper

The well illustrated detailed instructions are provided on 4 sheets of paper. Although this kit consists of more foam board and less cardstock, its construction borrows from Art's previous products.

The first step is to bevel and trim the three pre-cut square pieces of foam board using the provided template. This template is also used to mark the hole for the launch rod on one of the sections. The beveling is similar to that used on the foam core bottom on his saucers and cones, and allows the three sections to mate relatively seamlessly, forming the top half of a cube.

Art Applewhite 24mm Qubit The leading edge of this 'truncated cube' is open as the tip was trimmed as indicated above. Once the top pieces are set, the cardstock tip is formed and slipped over the opening. The final step in building the top section is to fill the tip with 5-minute epoxy, which provides the necessary nose weight and adds durability.

Next, the motor tube opening and launch rod hole is cut in the otherwise pre-formed bottom section. This in turn is installed and the kit is complete.

My beta version of the Qubit is solid white, although other solid colors will be offered. Addition finishing is up to the imagination, but a simple die (i.e. half a pair of dice) and 'Borg'-type ship come to mind. In fact, I simply added a few circular stickers to mine. The photos above show the larger 24mm Qubit next to a pair of 13mm ones.

The recommended motors include the D11-P, E9-P, and any Aerotech 24mm with the ejection charge removed. The only prep is to friction fit the motor and to make sure the rocket is supported at least 6" off the blast deflector. My 24mm Qubit has flown great on E9-Ps and a D12-0 that I plugged.

This rocket uses aerobrake recovery. It floats down nice and slowly and the reinforced nose ensured it doesn't get dinged up. The flight got everyone's attention and one spectator quickly snatched it up for closer inspection.

What can you say about this kit? Well, it is simple and economical. It is great for small fields. And the inset motor makes for a nice smoke trail. Basically, if you like Art's saucers and cones, you will love this one also!