Robust Water-Rocket Launcher Gets The Engineering Just Right

Normally when we run across a project that claims to be overengineered, we admit that we get a little excited. Such projects always hold the potential for entertainingly over-the-top designs, materials, and methods. In this case, though, we’ll respectfully disagree with [Zach Hipps] assessment of his remote-controlled soda bottle rocket launcher as “overengineered”. To us, it seems just right.

That’s not to take away from anything accomplished with this build. Indeed, we’re mighty impressed by the completeness of the build, which was intended to create a station for charging and launching air-powered water rockets. The process started with a prototype, built mainly from 3D-printed parts but with a fair selection of workshop scraps to hold it together. This allowed [Zach] to test the geometry of the parts, operation of the mechanism, and how it interfaced with the flange on the necks of 2-liter soda bottles.

Honestly, the prototype was pretty good by itself and is probably where many of us would have stopped, but [Zach] kept going. He turned most of the printed parts into machined aluminum and Delrin, making for a very robust pneumatically operated stand. We’ve got to say the force with which the jaws close around the bottle flange is a bit scary — looks like it could easily clip off a wayward finger. But if he manages to avoid that fate, such a hearty rig should keep [Zach] flying for a long time. Perhaps it could even launch a two-stage water rocket?

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Pouring Creativity Into Musical Upcycling Of Plastic Bottles

Convenient and inexpensive, plastic beverage bottles are ubiquitous in modern society. Many of us have a collection of empties at home. We are encouraged to reduce, reuse, and recycle such plastic products and [Kaboom Percussion] playing Disney melodies on their Bottlephone 2.0 (video embedded below) showcases an outstanding melodic creation for the “reuse” column.

Details of this project are outlined in a separate “How we made it” video (also embedded below). Caps of empty bottles are fitted with commodity TR414 air valves. The pitch of each bottle is tuned by adjusting pressure. Different beverage brands were evaluated for pleasing tone of their bottles, with the winners listed. Pressure levels going up to 70 psi means changes in temperature and inevitable air leakage makes keeping this instrument in tune a never-ending task. But that is a relatively simple mechanical procedure. What’s even more impressive on display is the musical performance talent of this team, assisted by some creative video editing. Sadly for us, such skill does not come in a bottle. Alcohol only makes us believe we are skilled without improving actual skill.

But that’s OK, this is Hackaday where we thrive on building machines to perform for us. We hope it won’t be long before a MIDI-controlled variant is built by someone, perhaps incorporating an air compressor for self-tuning capabilities. We’ve featured bottles as musical instruments before, but usually as wind instruments like this bottle organ or the fipple. This is a percussion instrument more along the lines of the wine glass organ. It’s great to see different combinations explored, and we are certain there are more yet to come.

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Teaching Science With An Empty Soda Bottle

Creating the next generation of scientists and engineers starts by getting kids interested in STEM at an early age, but that’s not always so easy to do. There’s no shortage of games and movies out there to entertain today’s youth, and just throwing a text book at them simply isn’t going to cut it anymore. Modern education needs to be engrossing and hands-on if it’s going to make an impact.

Which is exactly what the Institute of Science and Technology Austria hopes to accomplish with the popSCOPE program. Co-founded by [Dr. Florian Pauler] and [Dr. Robert Beattie], the project uses off-the-shelf hardware, 3D printed parts, and open source software to create an engaging scientific instrument that students can build and use themselves. The idea is to make the experience more personal for the students so they’re not just idle participants sitting in a classroom.

The hardware in use here is quite simple, essentially just a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a camera module, a Pimoroni Blinkt LED module, and a few jumper wires. It all gets bolted to a 3D printed frame, which features a female threaded opening that accepts a standard plastic soda (or pop, depending on your corner of the globe) bottle. You just cut a big opening in the side of the bottle, screw it in, and you’ve saved yourself a whole lot of time by not printing an enclosure.

So what does the gadget do? That obviously comes down to the software it’s running, but out of the box it’s able to do time-lapse photography which can be interesting for biological experiments such as watching seeds sprout. There’s also a set of 3D printable “slides” featuring QR codes, which the popSCOPE software can read to show images and video of real microscope slides. This might seem like cheating, but for younger players it’s a safe and easy way to get them involved.

For older students, or anyone interested in homebrew scientific equipment, the Poseidon project offers a considerably more capable (and complex) digital microscope made with 3D printed parts and the Raspberry Pi.

Propane-Powered Plasma Rifle

It may not be a “phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range,” and it doesn’t even use plasma in the strict definition, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. It’s a propane-powered bottle-launching rifle, and it looks like a lot of fun.

[NighthawkInLight] sure likes things that go pop, like his watermelon-wasting air-powered cannon and cheesy-poof pop gun. This one has a little more oomph to it, powered as it is by a propane torch. The principle is simple: fill a soda bottle with propane, ignite the gas, fun ensues. The details are a little more subtle, though, and allowances need to be made to keep back pressure from preventing the projectile from filling with fuel. [NighthawkInLight] overcomes this with some clever machining of the barrel. The final production version in the video below is needlessly but delightfully complex, with a wooden stock and a coil of clear vinyl tubing helical plasma accumulator before the barrel; the last bit is just for show, and we have to admit that it looks pretty good.

Unless you count the pro tip on using CPVC pipe to make custom fittings, this one is nothing but fun. But we don’t have a problem with that.

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A Better Mousetrap, At Least For The Mouse

No mice were harmed in the making of this non-lethal soda bottle mousetrap.

Depending on your opinion of these little critters, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. We don’t deny that mice are cute as all get-out, but when they do damage to foodstuffs that you’ve put an entire summer’s effort into growing, harvesting and preserving, cute isn’t worth much.

Our preference for taking care of rodent problems is either bioremediation or rapid cervical dislocation, but if you’re more of the catch-and-release type, this trap is for you. It’s just a 2-liter soda bottle on a wire pivot and mounted to a scrap wood frame; when the offending critter unwisely enters the neck of the bottle, its weight flips the bottle down and blocks the exit. Release is as simple as removing the bottle from the frame and letting Monsieur Jingles wiggle free. The questions of where to release and how many times you’ll keep catching the same mouse are left as an exercise for the reader.

Remember – a live catch trap is only humane if it’s checked regularly. To that end, maybe something like das Katzetelegraf could be added to this trap.

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Recycled Factory Recycles Soda Bottles

All over the world, mountains of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics are available for recycling in the form of soda bottles. And wherever there is enough cheap raw material, a market is sure to emerge for it. One brilliant inventor in Brazil has decided to capitalize on this market by building a magnificent factory to turn PET bottles into threads, rope, and other products.

Not a word of English is spoken in the video, and our Portuguese stops at obrigado, but you don’t really need to understand what’s being said to know what’s going on. Built from what looks to be the running gear of several bicycles and motors from various cast-off appliances, our nameless genius’ machines slit the PET bottles into fine threads, winds the thread onto spools, and braids the threads into heavier cords. We love the whole home-brew vibe of the machines; especially clever is the hacked desk calculator wired to a microswitch to count revolutions, and the salvaged auto jack used to build a press for forming the broom heads. All in all it’s a pretty amazing little factory cranking out useful products from zero-cost raw material.

We’d love to have more context about what’s being said in the video, so we’ll put this one out there for our Portuguese-speaking readers. Maybe we can get a partial translation in the comments? If so, then obrigado.

[Thanks W4RIS]

Nose Cone Parachute Deployment From A Soda Bottle, Rubber Band, And Servo


This piece of engineering is so simple and elegant, you’ll want to build a pretty serious water rocket just so you can try it out. It’s an automatic parachute deployment system that you build into the nose-cone of your rocket. The main portion of the build is made out of plastic soda bottles (2 liter size) to end up with a chamber to store the chute, as well as a friction joint that holds the thing together.

The video after the break shows a complete tutorial on how to build one of these. It starts by tracing out a sine-wave-like pattern on the wall of the bottle. The staggered tongues that are left after cutting along this line make up the friction joint. After gluing a cone (the blue thing) to the bottom of the bottle, it receives the parachute and is then slipped over another bottle that makes up the body of the rocket. The rubber band wraps around the outside of the chassis, holding those plastic tongues in place. The loose end of the rubber band is hooked around the horn of a servo motor, which can then be triggered remotely, or by using a sensor of your choosing. There is even a spring made out of a loop of plastic bottle — you can see it just on top of the chute in the image above.

Need a launching system that is as fancy as the parachute system? Here you go.

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