Mini-Project Final Technical Memo

Fabian Hough, James Manchester IED Section: 1 Date: 2/16/2012

The goal of the IED mini project was to design and build a device which would launch a large marshmallow at a specific target between 5 and 20 feet. The launcher would also need to clear the end of the test range, 20 feet. After comparing design alternatives it was decided that an air launcher, similar to a Nerf gun, was the best in regards to accuracy, durability, and creativity. This style launcher will enable the team to win the class competition and achieve a good grade by hitting the target consistently with precise and accurate shots, by withstanding breakage or stress due to testing and firing, and by impressing others with its unique and ingenious design.


Figure 1. Gantt chart The original plan was to finish and build the launcher as fast as possible. However, due to many unforeseen circumstances, such as scheduling and prior commitments, the actual plan ended up looking like the above Figure 1. As it can be seen, Acquisition of Parts, Testing/Refinement, and Data Gathering all continue into the end in order to prepare for unforeseen circumstances, or last minute improvements. If the chart was extended to February 22 instead of February 13, these lines would also continue, indicating any last minute tweaks before the interclass competition if the launcher had gotten first place.

Concepts and Benchmarking
After the overall goal was set for the design project and our initial planning based in the project specifications was completed, the concept development and then system design phases were initialized. Research was invested into finding out how current models and systems worked. One of the ways used to organize and categorize this information was creating a mind map.

Figure 2. Mind Map A concept combination and concept selection matrix were used to identify superior concepts to take into the system design phase. The categories of launchers was further refined and simplified.

Concept CombinationTable1: Concept Combination Table Construction Material Wood PVC Metal Energy source Spring Powered Elastic Powered Weight Powered Tension Powered Pressure Powered Launch Style Rotational Tube/Barrel Track/Sled

The concept combination table above (Table1) was used to brainstorm and combine possible components of the overall design into complete design concepts. Within the construction material category metal was eliminated as a possible construction material, due to its high cost Page 2 of 8

relative to the other materials in consideration and its high difficulty to implement relative to other materials. Tension and Pressure as energy sources for the launcher and a sled and track launch style were also eliminated because they would have been difficult to implement. The remaining options combined into the following four concepts: a spring cannon, a spring/elastic catapult, an air cannon, and a weight powered trebuchet.

Concept SelectionTable 1: Concept Selection Matrix
Selection Criteria Spring Cannon Spring/Elastic Catapult Cost 0 1 Difficulty to Implement 1 1 Creativity -1 -1 Efficiency 0 0 Personal Opinion 0 0 Durability -1 -1 Weight 0 0 Size 0 -1 Practicality 1 1 Safety 0 0 Sum of 1's 2 3 Sum of 0's 0 0 Sum of -1's -2 -3 Score 0 0 Rank 2 3 Concepts Air Cannon Trebuchet(weight powered) -1 0 -1 -1 1 0 1 0 1 -1 1 0 1 0 0 -1 1 -1 0 0 6 0 0 0 -2 -4 4 -4 1 4

The concept selection matrix allowed for the ranking of concepts based on their scores in specific selection criteria which included cost, difficulty to implement, creativity, efficiency, personal opinion, durability, weight, size, practicality, and safety. Each concept received a score in each category of 1, 0, or -1, with 1 being better relative to the other concepts, 0 being neutral, and -1 being worse. These scores were summed then scored and ranked, verifying that an air cannon was the best design concept to implement. The air cannon idea was also partially influenced by the rule that ‘Nerf-style launchers that generated a puff of air’ were allowed.

To reiterate, our team wanted to create a highly accurate and precise marshmallow launcher that met and exceeded expectations and constraints. A very important part of this was to create something that was unique in design amongst the many catapults, trebuchets, crossbows, etc. The initial concept rose out of the ‘Nerf-style’ puff of air concept, starting with the idea that air could be generated from a plunger in a larger tube and expelled from a smaller tube. Figure 3 (below) illustrates that the plunger was initially attached to an elastic band within the tube. Page 3 of 8

Figure 3. Plunger Concept

Figure 4. Development Ideas were taken from similar existing products that launched marshmallows, one of which emulated a bow and arrow. This led to the movement of the elastic bands from the inside of the tube to the outside. Within these sketches (Figure 4) are the beginnings of the aiming and releasing system. Some of the ideas considered included hinging the tube, using balloons, and pressing an air ‘button’ to create a puff of air. The outer design of the launcher changed from being all in one line to curving around a ‘U’ after our team bought parts, and discovered the existence of 90 degree connectors, which also became our method of angling and aiming the cannon. The plunger didn’t exist, and had to be handmade as well. The final concept at this point was locked down, and building began. Page 4 of 8

Figure 5. Final Launcher Concept

Figure 6. PAL Launcher The launcher was mounted onto a 2ft x 2ft piece of wood to both stabilize and measure it. Overall, the entire device consisted of:
       1x 3’’ diameter PVC 1x 1 ¼” diameter PVC 1x 90 degree connector 1x Trap Connector + 2” to 1 ¼” Adapter 1x Plunger (hand-made) Various Bungee cords Various I-Screws

Test Plan and Test Results
To test the PAL, a test area was created with measured gridlines every foot and a center line Page 5 of 8

which spanned the entire test range of 20 feet. The testing consisted of adjusting launch angle and the number of bungees attached to the plunger, then firing five marshmallows from each position. The x and y coordinates relative to the center line and start line were recorded for each shot (see figure 1).
y axis

PAL Figure 7. Test range coordinates

x axis

The average of our five shots became the distance for that specific position, which was marked on the PVC with reference lines and recorded in Excel. These reference lines created a continuous scale along the PVC, so that any target distance could be achieved by fine adjustments of the launch angle. Table 3. Data collection

Testing showed that one bungee attached to each side of the plunger supplied enough power to shoot a marshmallow accurately along the entire test range, 5 to 20 feet, so only one distance scale was needed.

Figure 8. Launch angle scale Page 6 of 8

With the scale established testing moved into a competition based phase, where a target distance was chosen randomly, and accuracy and precision measures were taken. This involved the operator using the scale to pick a desirable launch angle, then taking coordinate measures relative to the center of the target. Once the data was collected and entered into the provided scoring sheet, graphs were made comparing the accuracy and precision of the PAL at different distance along the test range.

Figure 9. Score sheet for accuracy and precision

Accuracy and Precision: Test Phase 2
6 4 Inches 2 0 5 ft 8 ft 10 ft 15 ft 18 ft Target Distance accuracy precision

Figure 10. Accuracy and Precision The graph shows that the PAL is more accurate and precise as the target distance is increased. This is due to the increased range of landing when the launch angle is low, but these accuracy and precision scores should enable the PAL to hit any target distance in the competition.

The PAL marshmallow cannon came out of the goal to create a unique launcher amidst some of the more common methods of launching marshmallows within IED. It was inspired by existing products and creativity that challenged notions that people had. It constantly grew and developed as our team was building it, and became the more refined version it is today. The marshmallow cannon our team built definitely met most of the requirements of IED, and exceeded a few of them. It proved to be extremely powerful with the maximum range Page 7 of 8

somewhere between 50 – 60 feet. In terms of accuracy and precision, it did not meet our personal expectations. Since the plunger was hand-made and did not fit exactly within the PVC, the seal wasn’t as good and air escaped whenever there was a certain amount of pressure. This caused some minor fluctuations in terms of distance, which can also be attributed to the relationship between angle and distance, with the precision of distance decreasing as the distance came closer to the launcher. However, the PVC barrel helped to guide the marshmallows extremely well, minimizing side-to-side fluctuations and launching the marshmallows in the same straight line.

Lessons Learned
Working on the IED mini-project not only helped me learn a lot about the design process, but how to work through this design process with other people as a member of a team. Fabian and I were able to build off of each other creatively through the planning and concept generation phases of the process, then cooperate and work constructively through construction, development, and testing. This teamwork enriched the design process and allowed us to accomplish something that neither of us could have on our own. Had we not been able to work so well together, this project could very well have gone the other way. This leads me to believe that a focus on good teamwork can lead to great success, and the lack thereof to failure.

I’ve worked with a lot of teams before in the past, but I’ve always learned at least one new thing from each experience. We rarely had time to meet because of our very different schedules, but from this, I learned the importance of initiating work. Even if each of us were busy, we made sure that we understood our common goal, and made sure we understood our assignments until the next time we meant. I also continued to figure out my strengths and weaknesses, and I found that while James was great with tools and mechanical knowledge, I contributed best with idea generation and craft knowledge (making the plunger was no easy task). All in all, working with James has been interesting because of our opposing personalities and lives, but interestingly, we worked well together because we made sure to define early on exactly what we wanted to do, and how we were going to do it.

"Howtoons » The Infamous Marshmallow Shooter." Howtoons. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <>. age.tpl&product_id=55&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=53

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