The two most important goals in the design of a race car chassis are that it be lightweight and rigid. Light weight is important to achieve the greatest accelleration for a given engine power. Rigidity is important to maintain precise control over the suspension geometry, that is, to keep the wheels firmly in contact with the race course surface. Unfortunately these two goals are often in direct conflict. Finding the best compromise between weight and rigidity is part of the art and science of race car engineering.
For this project you'll develop a program to analyze a race car chassis based on the mathematical theory of space frames. A space frame is an idealized model of a structure built from infinitely strong links connected by freely rotating joints (called nodes) in such a way that the whole structure is perfectly rigid. No real race car meets the definition of a true space frame but the design principles are used throughout race car design and in other engineering areas as well. Look at an older bridge (non-suspension type), a construction crane, or a radio transmitter and you'll see a structure built primarily of triangles -- the most fundamental space frame.
There are two parts to this project. In the first you'll write a program that implements a very simple, direct algorithm to determine if a structure is a true space frame. While this approach is easy to understand it suffers from some computational difficulties and is not as useful for further analysis. In the second part you'll be given the chassis design of a Formula V race car, a very popular class in amateur racing. You'll also be given subroutines that implement some sophisticated algorithms that will not only determine if the structure is a space frame, but will point out any deficiencies. You'll use this information to visualize the kinds of deformations the chassis can undergo and determine where additional bracing is most needed.
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