Fano 1999 Alexander Graham Bell Symposium

Ben Ruhe
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Fano 1999 had the best weather in the 15 year history of the kitefliers' meeting. Only one day was washed out by the showers, so typical on this small Danish island, and what a pleasant coincidence that it was the same afternoon that the scheduled Alexander Graham Bell Symposium was to be held. Over 65 enthusiasts sought shelter and information in Fano's elementary school, and, as showers pelted the island, were treated to lectures by Ralf Schroder and Achim Kinter. (For a sample of Ralf Schroder's design work, see "Drachen Sport und Design" May 1999.)

Ralf Schroder fell in love with the tetrahedral form. He was so taken with the design ideas of Bell's creation that he fabricated his own plastic connectors to build his early kites. Fashioned by bending and melting plastic tubing, the connectors featured tie-ons to support an external sail-thus allowing each cell to use only four spars instead of Bell's six. These early connectors proved too brittle and Ralf sought to develop a universal tetra connector that would be inexpensive, accessible, and easily fabricated.

Ralf found the building block he was looking for in a building supply store. Spherical wooden cabinet knobs were large enough to be drilled for spars, small enough to be light and strong, and sold for only pennies apiece. With help from a machinist friend, Ralf designed an elegant steel tool in which his tetra connector could be fabricated. The knobs, manufactured with one flat side, are locked inside Ralf's tool, drilled by lathe or drill press, and transformed into connectors. Ralf showed pictures of his kites-made to almost any size and any configuration due to the utility of his connectors.

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