Latest StoriesFeatured
    How Expert Builders Compete with Ultra-Realistic RC Models

    Many modelers get into the RC hobby with dreams of flying a replica of their favorite full-scale airplane. Whether you want a blazing red Fokker triplane, a shiny P-51 Mustang, or even a F-16 powered by a real jet engine, there are models to scratch that itch. For some, the need for scale accuracy goes deeper…much, much deeper. These detail-oriented hobbyists spend countless hours making their model appear as close as possible to the real thing. No nuance is too small to replicate. They also gather for competitions where their creations are judged by how realistic they appear on the ground and in flight.

    Rules for RC scale competition are specifically tailored to include modelers with widely varying skill levels, budgets, and interests. (Dunn photo)

    Something for Everyone

    Many scale competitions in the US are governed by the U.S. Scale Masters Association (USSMA). The event rules are specifically tailored to include modelers with varying skill levels, budgets, and interests. If you love to build, but you're not the best pilot, you can partner with an ace flyer to compete in one of the team categories. Or maybe you just want to test the competitive waters. There are novice classes that allow you to compete with off-the-shelf factory-built models.

    Expert class scale competition modelers build and pilot their own flying replicas.

    The top tier of scale competition is the expert class. These modelers build and pilot their own flying creations. They must be equally skilled in both areas to be a serious contender.

    At any given event, you are likely to find a mix of military and civilian models spanning all eras of aviation. The USSMA rulebook states that competitors can use "any scale model of a heavier-than-air, man-carrying, fixed-wing aircraft that was actually built and flown". Other than blimps, helicopters, and drones, it's essentially wide open.

    USSMA holds regional events all over the US. Participants who score well enough at a regional are invited to attend the annual U.S. Scale Masters Championships…a Super Bowl of scale modeling. The winner of the expert class at this national event is named "Grand Champion". To gain some insight into the realm of RC scale events, I spoke with the current US Scale Masters Grand Champion, Chris Wolfe.

    LEGO with Friends: Blade Runner Blaster

    Kicking off a new week of LEGO with Friends, special guest Angus Maclane visits the Tested office to share with Adam his latest project--a LEGO Blade Runner blaster! Adam brings his own blaster over to compare, of course.

    The Special Effects of SyFy's The Expanse

    Adam Savage goes behind the scenes of Syfy channel's The Expanse, one of our favorite science fiction shows of the past year. At the offices of SpinVFX, Adam learns how digital effects artists work with the show's directors to realize the breathtaking environments of this futuristic show.

    Let's Build: Papercraft with PhysicsGirl, Part 3

    The build team turns their attention to the the Mercury Astronaut papercraft kit, which turns out to be much more challenging than the rock band they've been putting together all week. Our science chat turns to the topic of perpetual motion machines, and why some people believe they work (when they don't!)

    Deep-Sea Eclipse: The Forgotten Voyage of the Ben Franklin

    The Apollo 11 Moon landing in the summer of 1969 captured the world's attention and had everyone looking skyward. But while Michael, Neil, and Buzz were swiftly heading away from the surface of the Earth, NASA was also involved with another unprecedented voyage travelling in the opposite direction. Only no one was watching.

    The PX-15 was a small research submarine that could safely reach depths of 2000 feet. (image courtesy of The Grumman History & Aerospace Research Center)

    A small research submarine, called the Ben Franklin, carried a crew of highly-skilled explorers to locations never before visited by humans. Much like the astronauts headed to the lunar surface, the submariners placed themselves in great danger to expand our scientific knowledge and scratch that uniquely human itch to explore the unknown.

    NASA oceanographer, Dr. Gene Carl Feldman, sums up the parallel efforts:

    "I grew up in the 60s, a decade of exploration. We were going to the moon and we were going to explore and colonize the sea. The sea was the next frontier just as space was the next frontier.

    There were two culminating expeditions: one to the Moon, one to the Gulf Stream. These missions were the ultimate voyages of exploration for their respective disciplines. There was no space mission greater than Apollo 11. And there was no expedition to the undersea world greater than the Ben Franklin. What was amazing was that both of these missions took place at the end of July in 1969."

    Grumman marketed the PX-15 for further deep-sea research, but the Gulf Stream Drift Mission was its only significant use. (image courtesy of The Grumman History & Aerospace Research Center)

    The Mission

    The Gulf Stream Drift Mission was an endeavor with many widely-varying scientific goals. Its core objective was to map and study the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic Ocean's northward-flowing current of warm water that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe and Africa. The effects of the Gulf Stream are wide reaching. It had often been the subject of previous scientific study, including pioneering work by Benjamin Franklin. What made this effort particularly unique is that the 6-man crew and the myriad instrumentation were not housed on a surface ship. Rather, they remained cocooned in a submersible vessel for the entire 30-day voyage covering more than 1400 miles (2250km).

    Papercraft with PhysicsGirl, Part 2

    Our tiny papercraft rock band is coming together, as Simone, Norm, and guest PhysicsGirl share some stories of theme parks, Harry Potter, and learning different languages via subtitles. Plus, awkward interactions with famous YouTubers!

    Let's Build: Papercraft with PhysicsGirl, Part 1

    We're joined by special guest Dianna Cowern, aka PhysicsGirl, for a week of building intricate Japanese papercraft dioramas. Dianna talks about how she makes her successful YouTube channel, recent adventures, and how her father was struck by lightning...twice!

    Bits to Atoms: The Pi Score

    Welcome to the first episode of Bits to Atoms! The intrepid team of Sean Charlesworth and Jeremy Williams team up to bring their dream projects to reality, showing you the design and fabrication steps along the way. Their first build: the Pi Score, a tabletop MAME cabinet inspired by the classic Coleco mini-arcade games. (Download the files here!)

    How Prop Makers Engineer the Weapons and Gear of The Expanse!

    Adam visits the props department of Syfy's The Expanse, where armorists and propmakers engineer the weapons, helmets, and the gear that give weight and story to the universe of the show. Prop master James Murray shows Adam some of the unique props his team has made, revealing aesthetic and functional details! Season 2 of The Expanse premieres Wednesday, Feb. 1!

    How Costumers and Artists Build the Wardrobe of Syfy's The Expanse

    Adam recently went behind the scenes of Syfy's The Expanse, visiting the production and exploring the props, costumes, and sets created for the show. One of Adam's favorite places was the costume department, where costume designer Joanne Hansen let him get up close to the custom armor and outfits worn by the cast. Plus, a visit to the costume breakdown and aging room for a look at weathering!

    Simone Giertz Laser Cuts Her Secret Santa Gift!

    For the Reddit Secret Santa exchange this past holiday, Simone made a custom laser-cut star map using some internet searching, vector drawing, and laser cutting at the Tested office. She walks us through her one-day project so you can make one too!

    How MegaBots Will Let You Build Your Own Giant Fighting Robot!

    MegaBots' creators want you to be able to one day build your own giant fighting robot. But how is that possible? Simone and Norm visit the MegaBots headquarters to learn how their latest prototype--now equipped with giant steel knives--is the next step to proving that the dream of making your own giant robot is real.