A tennis racket and a tennis ball with a spinning motor inside

A Self-Spinning Tennis Ball To Surprise Your Opponent

In many ball sports like golf, football and tennis, controlling the ball’s spin is an important skill. Expert players can make golf balls curve around obstacles, launch footballs towards goal posts from impossible angles, or confuse their opponents by making a tennis ball bounce in a completely unexpected direction.

[Luis Marx], by his own admission, is not an expert tennis player at all, so when he found himself humiliated on the court by his roommate he set about finding a different way to win. In other words, to cheat. The basic idea was to make a tennis ball that would start spinning at the push of a button, rather than by skillful wielding of a racket: a spinning ball that flies through the air will follow a curved trajectory, so if you can make a ball spin at will, you can change its direction in mid-air.

Making a ball spin by itself is not as hard as it may sound. All you need is an electric motor that’s small enough to fit inside, along with a power source and some way to turn it on. When the motor inside the ball starts to spin, Newton’s third law ensures that the outside will spin in the opposite direction. [Luis] found a suitable DC motor and mounted it on a small custom-designed PCB along with an ESP8266 controller and powered it with a tiny lithium battery. A pushbutton mounted on his tennis racket operates the wireless interface to turn the motor on and off.

Although getting this setup to work wasn’t as easy as [Luis] had hoped, turning it into a ball that’s good enough to play tennis with was not straightforward either. [Luis] decided to 3D-print the outer shell using flexible filament in order to create something that would have the same amount of bounce as an ordinary rubber tennis ball. It took several rounds of trial and error with various types of filament to end up with something that worked, but the final result, as you can see in the video (in German, embedded below), was quite impressive.

Tests on the tennis court showed that [Luis] could now easily beat his roommate, although this was mostly due to the erratic bouncing caused by the ball’s spin rather than any aerodynamic effects. Still, the magic tennis ball achieved its objective and even survived several games without breaking. If you’re looking for a more brute-force approach to cheating at tennis, this 180 mph tennis ball trebuchet might come in handy.

Continue reading “A Self-Spinning Tennis Ball To Surprise Your Opponent”

Pneumatic Launcher Gets Ham Antennas Hanging High

Amateur radio is an eclectic hobby, to say the least. RF propagation, electrical engineering, antenna theory – those are the basics for the Ham skillset. But pneumatics? Even that could come in handy for hanging up antennas, which is what this compressed-air cannon is designed to do.

[KA8VIT]’s build will be familiar to any air cannon aficionado. Built from 2″ Schedule 40 PVC, the reservoir is connected to the short barrel by a quarter-turn ball valve. Charging is accomplished through a Schrader valve with a cheap little tire inflator, and the projectile is a tennis ball weighted with a handful of pennies stuffed through a slit. Lofting an antenna with this rig is as simple as attaching a fishing line to the ball and using that to pull successively larger lines until you can pull the antenna itself. [KA8VIT] could only muster about 55 PSI and a 70′ throw for the first attempt shown below, but a later attempt with a bigger compressor got him over 100 feet. We’d guess that a bigger ball valve might get even more bang for the buck by dumping as much air as quickly as possible into the chamber.

Looking to launch a tennis ball for non-Ham reasons? We’ve got you covered whether you want to power it with butane or carbon dioxide.

Continue reading “Pneumatic Launcher Gets Ham Antennas Hanging High”

Tennis Ball Cannon

Tennis Ball Cannon With Clear Combustion Chamber

[hw97karbine] has made a pretty cool tennis ball cannon. While making a cannon of this sort is nothing new to us, we were impressed by the effort taken to get a stoichiometrically ideal mixture of 3.2% butane and air in the combustion chamber.

[hw97karbine] filled a syringe with butane and then dosed exact amounts into the chamber using a hole in the back. To control the air mixture he marked lines on the outside of the cylinder with magic marker. Simple but effective.

More rewarding than the methods was the cool slow-mo videography of the explosions in the chamber. You really have to check it out. [hw97karbine] shows clearly the difference between a well-balanced fuel to air mixture and a poorly balanced one. It’s one thing to say that more fuel does not mean better combustion, as we all remember from our personal potato cannon experiences, but it’s another thing entirely to see it.

[Via Reddit]

Hackaday Links: February 27, 2011

Odd project materials

[Juliansr] wrote in to tell us about a site that sells bendable, moldable, stretchable, and other ‘able’ materials you might want to use in your next project.

(2 * 9V) = Flashlight

[Lasse] built a flashlight with two 9V batteries. One is a normal battery, the other has been gutted and is used as a connector and enclosure for an LED and resistor.

Ghetto flat screen mount

Don’t despair if you can’t afford a mounting bracket for that new flat screen. All you really need is a few screws and some garbage ties.

Tennis ball stand

This crafty solution to charging a phone makes sure that you’re also able to read the display. Since tennis balls lose their pressurization over time it’s a good use for the flat orbs.

Message visor

Get your message across while blocking your view of… everything with this message displaying visor. It’s like a Daft Punk helmet without the helmet.

Ball Catching Bot


Who needs a robot that can catch a tennis ball? We do. What would we do with it? Probably just throw tennis balls at it, that’s the only use we can think of. The work of University students in Kunzelsau and Vienna, it is actually a prototype for new transport systems for industrial robots. Though they don’t list any specific instances where this is a practical method of transport, we think maybe a tennis ball factory would be a good place to start. We can also envision a robot baseball league between this bot and the extremely dexterous ones we’ve covered before.

[via BotJunkie]

Tennis Ball Fetcher


Reader [Julian von Mendel] and his team built this tennis ball fetching robot for a competition (translated). The first version used distance sensors to locate the tennis balls for pick-up, but they changed to a camera based approach. The robot has three omniwheels and is designed to calculate the shortest path to the ball despite orientation since it can rotate while traveling. The wheels are monitored using rotation sensors from PS/2 mice. The control is provided by 3 Atmel microcontrollers that communicate via SPI. The multiprocessor design is fairly generic and could be reused for a different style of robot. While their robot performed fairly well, there were some shortcomings. The limited storage space meant frequent trips to drop off balls. The tilting bucket kept them from picking up tennis balls that were against the wall. Also, the bot had to be disassembled for battery swaps. The project is very well documented and they’ve released all of their control code. You can see the robot retrieving a ball after the break. Continue reading “Tennis Ball Fetcher”