Hack a Day’s entry into the Red Bull creation contest

We had tons of ideas, but the one that seemed most feasible, and had the least probability of causing mortal injury, was this. We created a red bull launching mortar system. The cans are launched and a parachute deploys to bring them down to the eager people below safely. I was the one in charge of construction, so the rest of the team acted as consultants for this round. I was also able to recruit a few people from here at Squidfoo for help.

Our first task was creating the cannon itself. It is a fairly simple pneumatic cannon. There’s an empty propane tank for a compression chamber, then a solenoid valve going to the barrel. We chose to lay the propane tank on its side and set it on some wheels to allow for a perfect aiming mechanism. You can rotate the barrel up and down very easily. [Andrew Mitzel] put in several hours of hard work getting that rotating mechanism to work just right.

After that, [Tony Sherwood] and I came up with a design that would function as a sabot as well as a removable harness for the cans. The barrel is 3″ wide, so the cans needed some help making a seal. [Tony] happened to have a makerbot replicator with him, so we printed out perfectly sized bits, including our hackaday logo for the bottom. I added an LED in the hackaday logo just in case you were to fire these after dark. You can find the files for our logo on thingiverse. You can find the can top/bottom on [Tony’s] account (updated link coming as soon as he uploads them).

The only rule to this section of the contest was to utilize the bullduino they sent out. We used it as our safety system. You have to push specific pads at the same time to arm the device. Once armed, you can fire only if you depress both the thumb button and the trigger. After about 15 seconds, they bullduino automatically disarms itself.

As you can see in the video, this sucker really shoots the cans well. The parachutes deploy and the wind can carry the cans pretty far. Of course, if the wind is blowing back at the cannon, they can drift all the way back too. We ended up deciding to fire some rounds without parachutes just for fun. It easily covered the distance of a football field.

We’re working on something completely un-safe with it, stay tuned.

Interestingly, the only problem I’ve run into in this entire process is the fact that the public domain music I chose has legal issues on youtube. Apparently WMG owns every performance of “Ride of the Valkyries” that is out there. Jerks.

Here’s a Vimeo link just incase the music ends up being an issue.

41 thoughts on “Hack a Day’s entry into the Red Bull creation contest

    1. Red Bull is really getting their moneys worth in pr from those guys.

      Hackaday, I’m bored by this.

  1. Clever, Might be actually something they could implement at a concert/show for giving away free drinks. It would have to have a foam protector for liability reasons.

    1. Yep, we considered a very large open cell foam sabot. imagine a nerf football with a red bull inside and a parachute. That would make it rather large though.

    1. Not my first joystick (that would be one of those Gravis 2 button Apple II jobs) but certainly my favorite. Classy touch!

  2. This was my first thought when I heard of the contest, although I was thinking about trying to use the bullduino to do some rudimentary targeting as well. Then I decided I was lazy and too poor to get the components I needed. Glad to see someone implement it.

  3. I’d sure hate to get beaned by a can of Red Bull, or even Mountain Dew. The parachutes on my daughters Green Army Men occasionally opened like we expected.

    1. you’d have to have a crowd of people positioned on the field for catching. You’d never fire this toward the stands. If the parachute fails to open, the distance it travels doubles.

  4. Safety triggers like that are 7 second reset on aerial work platforms governed by ANSI.
    from the post earlier today you could try the wiper motors from a junk yard. They have enough to haul a good sized adult around the yard in modified power wheelz.

  5. Meh. I thought it was going to be a HILO system, or atleast an autotargeting air cannon mortar. I have wanted to build one for ages but am just too lazy.

    Think gps+laser range finder for target area designation. Then wind speed and tank air pressure detector to serve as additional input into the arduino to run two servos. One for rotation, another for angle, and finally just a simple relay to an electric sprinkler valve.

    But don’t be dissuaded. I like the hackaday original videos.

    1. Seriously. I love the video too, and the thought of launching drinks 50 feet into the air… but you mean to tell me you got one of the precious few bullduinos and used it to build a simple safety switch?!?! I expected so much more.

      Either way, fun to watch. :)

  6. I think you need another can of Red Bull as your ability to correctly spell the word “construction” fades near the end of the credits.

  7. As a former weapons engineer, my hat goes off to you gentlemen. What no glowsticks added to the chutes for night delivery?

    Perhaps I will share the secrets of my rocket mortar for Independence Day type artillery shells…

    Why launch just one when you can get a half dozen in the air and detonate them at the same time?

  8. Of course you’ve bought a skid of Red Bull to fire of on July 4th, right? (Now if they only made White Bull and Blue Bull you’ed be all set.)

  9. Forget all the techno drivel. Where’s the Red Bull girls?!!!! Two cute Red Bull girls drove up to our house and delivered about 4 cases of Red Bull for my son’s 19th birthday party last year. I’m sure if you asked the Red Bull people they’d send the girls your way for you next launch!

  10. Next step, automated targeting run by the bullduino. Have it drop un-chuted cans one per square yard of a football field.

    The controller would need to adjust the altitude and azimuth along with the timing of the air solenoid valve as pressure in the tank drops.

    Add wind speed and direction sensors for better accuracy.

    1. Enough with the hipster bullshit. Advertising is not going away; manufacturers will always want people to know of their products. We the consumers control the form it takes. If a company does something interesting like this and we support it others are encouraged to do the same. If we sit around feeling too cool for skool and snigger at them all we’ll get is more boring crap to complain about. Would you really prefer the Red Bull advertising budget were spent on posters of chicks in bikinis drinking the stuff?

  11. Obviously this will be the basis for an awesome drinking game when you ditch the red bull and replace with beer. Whoever catches the can drinks the can, like drunken (American) football catching practice!

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