Measure The Speed Of A Speeding Bullet

In the study of ballistics, you can do very little without knowing the velocity of a projectile. Whether you need to hit a target at over a mile, check if a paintball gun is safe for opposing players, or photograph high-velocity objects, you need a way to measure that velocity. [td0g] enjoys the challenge of photographing bullets impacts, and has created an open-source ballistic chronograph to help achieve this.

A rifle bullet punching through a wine glass, captured with the help of the chronograph

[td0g]’s design makes use of two light gates spaced some distance apart, and the time that an object takes to travel between the two is measured and used to calculate velocity. Most commercial ballistic chronographs also work in this way. [td0g] created the light gates using pairs of infrared photodiodes and LEDs. When there is a sudden dip in the amount of light received by the photodiode, the Arduino control circuit knows that an object has passed between the photodiode and LEDs and triggers the timer. An LCD shield on the Arduino is used to control the software and display velocity. As you probably guessed, clock accuracy is very important for such time measurements, and [td0g] demonstrates a simple technique using a smartphone metronome app to manually calibrate the clock to acceptable accuracy for his purposes. Continue reading “Measure The Speed Of A Speeding Bullet”

Engineering The Perfect Throw For Rock Skipping

Summer is here (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and World’s Greatest Uncle [Mark Rober] is at it again with his nieces and nephews. This time he’s all about skipping stones, that shoreline pastime that kids sometimes find frustrating and adults find humiliating when trying to demonstrate the technique.

But what exactly is the proper technique? [Mark] didn’t know, so he built a robot to find out. Yes, we know it’s not a robot – it’s just a commercial clay pigeon launcher with a few modifications — but work with us here. His idea is to build a rig that can eliminate as many variables as possible when a human tries to skip a stone, and work back one variable at a time to find the perfect set of factors. The prototype in the video below did a respectable job skipping stones, but it was nowhere near optimal. [Mark] then engaged the kids on a careful exploration of the mechanics of rock skipping using the rig, eventually going so far as to eliminate variability in the rocks by making clay pigeons of his own. The results are fantastic; at a 20° approach angle and a 20° tilt of the rock relative to the water, those artificial stones just seem to go on forever. Even skipping natural stones was much improved by what they learned, which is completely counter to the age-old advice to release as low and as parallel to the water as possible.

The real gem in this video, though, is [Mark] describing his engineering design process. Watch and learn, because he clearly knows a thing or two about turning ideas into fun stuff, such as enormous Super Soakers, fully automatic snowball guns, and dart-catching dartboards.

Continue reading “Engineering The Perfect Throw For Rock Skipping”