Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer

High up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, knee-deep in snow untouched by any other forms of life. Just a few hundred more yards of hiking and you find yourself at the top of a fresh canvas waiting for you to make your mark upon. As you strap on your snowboard, your brain races thinking about the ride that is to come. You drop. All worries, doubts, stress, and problems are erased from your mind instantly and life becomes very simple. As you finish your run, with a smile ear to ear, the only thing that plagues your mind is getting back up just to ride back down.


OBJECTIVES
DESIGN AND FUNCTION
TESTING
MARKET RESEARCH
ABOUT THE TEAM

The Reno Divorce Kit (RDK), pat. pending, is a design project developed by Team Divide and Conquer that modifies a typical snowboard allowing for both riding and backcountry touring functionality. The kit includes a series of components that can be attached to any latitudinal divided snowboard and can provide the user with the functions of both a snowboard and a pair of snowshoes. This is particularly useful to backcountry snowboarding enthusiasts, where terrain access is limited to travel by foot. The components in the RDK can be simplified into two sections: the marriage plate and the binding system.

The RDK permits the use of any standard snowboard binding available on the market and allows the binding to function as both snowboard bindings and snowshoe bindings. By utilizing separate plates secured to both the bindings and board, the switch from a snowboard riding stance to a snowshoe backcountry touring stance can be made quickly and effortlessly.

 

Through extensive product testing and analysis of several full scale prototypes, the RDK has proven its durability, strength, and ease of use. Multiple kits have been tested in various real world conditions with 100% success. 

OBJECTIVES

In backcountry snow travel, movement is limited to by the depth of the freshly fallen snow and the slope of the climb. One of the simplest ways to traverse a flat snowy terrain or a snowy mountainside is with the use of snowshoes. Snowshoes provide a larger surface area for the user’s foot preventing him or her from sinking into the snow. For backcountry snowboarders, this is a common method of travel to their desired backcountry destination. Unfortunately, carrying a pair of snowshoes, a snowboard, and the individual bindings that go with it are heavy and cumbersome. Team Divide and Conquer wishes to integrate the function of snowshoes and snowboards into one system. The binding systems will be combined into one simple, easy-to-use system in order to lessen the burden of carrying two separate bindings for snowshoes and snowboard. We want to provide a means of backcountry travel to snowboard riders by providing a unique alternative, ease-of-use, and integrated function all in one system.

Throughout the design process of the RDK, a set of objectives has been assigned in order to resolve important design problems. This is to ensure that the RDK meets the design specifications as well as to make sure that the kit can handle any situation with minimal problems.

  • The RDK Marriage Plate that will reconnect and lock the two board halves together must be structurally sound while maintaining snowboard ride quality. The connection must be able to withstand all forces acting on the board while in operation.
  • The RDK Binding Plate must emphasize ease-of-use and allow for tool-less transformation in minimal time.  Voile Splitboards takes 5 minutes to transform not including putting on skins. The goal is to make the RDK’s transition time  1-2 minutes.

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DESIGN AND FUNCTION

The design of the RDK involves two main systems: (1) the marriage plate, and (2) the binding system (Figure 1). The Marriage plate is the member that holds the board together when in snowboard mode. It utilizes Interlocking Finger Technology (IFT) developed by the team. The fingers interlock each half of the board and are constrained by the snowboard on the bottom and the bridge component on the top. A rubber draw latch is used to hold together the board laterally. The binding system is broken up into three components for each half of a cut snowboard: (1) the binding plate, (2) the board plate, and (3) the snowshoe tab. The binding plate is screwed onto the users binding and stays on the binding for both modes. The board plate is mounted to the board in the riders desired location when in snowboard mode and combines with the binding plate to make the board ridable. The snowshoe tab is used for snowshoe mode, it attaches to the toe edge of the binding plate. The binding system utilizes spring loaded pins to lock the components into place.

Figure 1: Two main components of the RDK. The Marriage plate on the top and the Binding System on the bottom.

The fastening items included in the RDK will be comprised of T-nuts, washers, and hex head screws. These items will ensure a secure connection between the marriage plate, the binding system, and the modified snowboard. These connection items will be non-corrosive, lightweight, and strong enough to hold all components onto the board.

Function

Snowboarders cannot easily traverse flat or uphill terrain due their set stance and orientation to the board. The function of the RDK is to allow users to traverse various terrains with ease. This is achieved by splitting the board into two snowshoes and using the dynamic binding system to allow the user to change their orientation relative to the board and move their feet independently. This new orientation and free stance allows for a more streamlined sliding of the board and an overall more efficient movement across flat or uphill terrain.

Materials

7075 Aluminum was chosen for the RDK for a number of its attributes. First, it resists deformation over a large range of temperatures. This is important due to the precision fit of the RDK components and the fact that riders could experience temperatures from high 40s to below -20. Second, it has a high specific weight, meaning its strength to weight ratio is quite high. The RDK has to be able to handle high force loads while remaining as light as possible. Third, it is corrosion resistant, which is important because the RDK will constantly be immersed in snowy and wet conditions. Finally, the material is relatively cheap considering all of these desirable attributes. Due to the small budget of the project and the excellent attributes of 7075 aluminum it was an obvious choice. With a larger budget the team would consider alternate materials with even higher specific weights such as titanium, carbon fiber or other composite materials.  Other materials were also chosen because of their unique attributes. Stainless steel hardware and plunger pins were chosen for their strength and resistance to corrosion.  Since the draw latch is the only component holding the RDK together laterally, a rubber draw latch was chosen for its high tensile strength, ability to performance in a large temperature range, and low cost.

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TESTING

Extensive experimentation has been done on the RDK over the 2012-13 winter season such as: Instron strength test on the connection points and field testing involving the full kit in real world scenarios in the Sierra Nevada and Ruby mountains. The field testing has been conducted in multiple conditions by different users with a variety of skill sets. The results of these tests have shown that the RDK is a viable working product that adheres to the objectives Team Divide and Conquer set out to accomplish with its design concept.

 

The Instron pull test gave a basis of comparison for various mounting methods of the RDK to a snowboard. It was also used to reduce the number of connection points on the RDK. The results of the graph can be seen below as well as a video of a manufacturer T-nut getting pulled.

 

Recently, our primary tester of the RDK conducted a side-by-side comparison with a splitboard in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

 

The results provided further evidence that the RDK is an efficient tool in the backcountry. The RDK’s touring nature is based off of its form as a set of snowshoes, which differ from touring skis in the backcountry. A notable difference between these two systems can be seen in a technique skiers refer to as “side-hilling,” a form of traversing hillsides in a zigzag fashion to control their angle of attack in order to gain elevation. The inherent nature of the snowshoe form enables the RDK to climb steeper slopes, allowing a more direct route to be taken.  Additionally, side-by-side comparison showed that the tranformation of the RDK from snowboard to snowshoe mode was significantly quicker than the transformation of a splitboard to touring skis and vice versa. The only drawback to the RDK is the overall weight; the system at the time of  the above prototype testing was 3.7lbs heavier than a standard splitboard. Recent modifications have allowed Team Divide and Conquer to remove 2.1lbs since the comparison test in the Ruby Mountains. Further iterations of the kit will be seen in the RDK 3.0 and will focus on reducing weight in both the marriage and binding plates.

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MARKET RESEARCH

 

Due to the relatively small amount of back county snowboarders, there is limited data on the size and demographic of the market that the RDK would be competing in. The target market for the RDK is the following:

  • Ages 20-35
  • Primarily male
  • Owns snowboard equipment
  • Resides in high elevation mountainous regions
  • Intermediate to advanced skill level
  • Partakes in or interested in backcountry snowboarding
A survey was put out by the team to gain more feedback on the market. The responses were primarily positive for the RDK and increased confidence that there is a place in the market for this product. The graphs below show the results from 25 people of two main questions asked in the survey.
Some other valuable information gained from the survey:
  • 100% of people would consider a alternative to a splitboard or snowshoes if alternately priced.
  • People are willing to spend $200 up to $1000 on backcountry equipment.
  • Most people did not like carrying snowboard when snowshoeing but did not want to spend more on splitboard.
  • Little concern on splitboard not riding well.
  • Most people were willing to pay more (>$500) if the product is safe and durable.
Survey concludes that the market is not set on splitboards or snowshoes and there is a niche for a alternative. The price point for most people was higher for many people than expected giving the team more cushion to experiment with alternate materials.

If you would like to participate in our on going survey click here

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ABOUT THE TEAM


Consisting of five senior level Mechanical Engineers attending The University of Nevada, Reno, the design team utilized engineering analysis and machine shop experience to create the RDK. Each of the members played an integral role in designing, manufacturing, and testing.

Ross Ramage (bottom left)

Ross has provided team organization and leadership, machining, modeling, and testing of the RDK. Drawing from over 12 years of snowboarding experience, he has provided the team with valuable insight on snowboard design and function which was brought into the design of the RDK. Any knowledge of the snowboard industry was brought into the business aspect as well.

G. Kody Sjoberg (top right)

Kody has been the primary tester and machinist of the RDK. Kody has applied his 10 years of experience in the industry as a ski/snowboard technician at numerous ski shops to help develop the integrated system that makes up the RDK. His experiences have allowed him to consistently approach, build, and evaluate the RDK in a similar fashion to the target consumer.

Joshua Moseley (bottom right)

Josh utilized his computer modeling skills to provide the team with multiple concepts and final models during the the development of the RDK. While not a snowboarder he provided useful input, drawing from many years of experience in the outdoors. He will continue to use his modeling skills to aid the company with future design work as well as improve his machining skills in order to supply another useful technician in the machine shop.

Chad Vidovcich (top left)

Having 5 years of computer modeling experience, Chad brought his expertise into play by modeling various components of the RDK. Being only slightly knowledgeable in snowboarding and backcountry touring, he was able to add necessary feedback from the viewpoint of a novice rider. Chad plans to use the RDK as a learning experience to further improve his knowledge of investments and business.

Noel Samson (middle)

Noel was in charge of documentations, and played an important role in the written portions of the design. Having no snowboarding or backcountry experience, the team asked Noel for opinions about the design due to his non-biased answers. He also acted as the inexperienced field tester which simulated a person new to backcountry travel with the RDK.

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