Air Rocket Launch Pad UI Entertains Eager Kids

Last spring [Mike] built a foam rocket launchpad which was a hit with the kids in his neighborhood. But the launch system was merely a couple of buttons so the early enthusiasm quickly wore off. He went back to the drawing board to make improvements and really hit the jackpot!

The original launch system had one button for building up air pressure with a second big red button of doom for launching the rocket. The problem was a complete lack of user feedback; all the kids could do is guess how long they needed to hold the button to achieve the highest launch. This revision adds flashing LEDs to hold the attention of the wee ones but to also function as a gauge for the new pressure control system. The visually fascinating control board also includes a removable key to prevent accidental launches.

The particulars of this are as you’d expect: it’s a bunch of plumbing to manage the air pressure, an Arduino to control it all, and additional electronics in between to make them work together.

We’re especially impressed by the leap in features and quality from the first version to this one. It’s a testament to the power of quick proofs-of-concept before committing to a more involved build. Great work [Mike]!

We’ve seen rocket launchers for adults and some neat mission control panels but [Mike’s] kid friendly launch controller really is out of this world (sorry, couldn’t resist). You’ll find a video demo of this launcher after the break.

9 thoughts on “Air Rocket Launch Pad UI Entertains Eager Kids

  1. nice thing. I can imagine that it’s magnet for kids :)
    any suggestion for this last compressed air valve? where to get it on cheap? I mean is it used in some automotive or in other common things? this should be something with high througput I think…

    1. Which valve? It’s all fairly common hardware store parts. An air line quick-disconnect for the air hose to the reservoir, some brass fittings and PE tubing to connect that to the check valve, and a sprinkler valve to act as the launch mechanism.

  2. Needs a better valve, the long honk of a sprinkler valve is the sound of inefficiency. Even just using a pneumatic trigger instead of the solenoid will improve efficiency.
    The over all design could use some optimization. Such a large reservoir being reduced to that small barrel diameter introduces some big resistance. V2.1 should involve some time with the old pneumatic spud gun workhorse of the ‘gas gun design tool’ http://www.thehalls-in-bfe.com/GGDT/

  3. Thanks for the love Hackaday!

    This thing is such a riot! We’ve been loaning it out for BBQs and birthdays and stuff. Kids down to 3 and 4 will play with it for hours, then when they get hauled in to bed the real competition starts with the teenagers and adults.

    Funny you should mention water, just two days ago I was looking over some of the soda bottle rocket launchers and scheming about a second launch pad :)

    How did I not know about that design tool! I’ll definitely keep that around for the next round of updates.

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