Blinn Engineering Students Test Skills with Tennis Ball Launching
Blinn College engineering students took the skills they learned in the classroom to the W.J. “Bill” Rankin Agricultural Complex parking lot, as 12 student groups competed to see whose projectile launcher could hurl a tennis ball the farthest.
Professor Johnnie Schroeder designed the project for his engineering design graphics class, which introduces students to technical drawing, the care and use of instruments, lettering, geometric construction, sketching, sectioning and dimensioning.
“In engineering, you always work in groups,” Schroeder said. “All I do is give them a problem and they have to come up with the solution, so you see a lot of different approaches. Some of the launchers were made of metal, some were made of wood and some used both. They really used our facilities to their advantage.”
Students were limited to creating a launcher no larger than one cubic meter and no heavier than 50 pounds. Students could also not use a compressed air propellant. Instead, students relied primarily on springs or bungee cords. In addition to building the launcher, students had to use engineering design software to produce design plans for the launcher.
Tyler Koehn (Weimar), Matthew Meier (Brenham) and Samuel Ozuna (Granbury) created the winning tennis ball launcher with a metal frame and two surgical bands connected to a leather pocket that cradled the tennis ball as it was launched.
“It’s basically an oversized slingshot,” said Ozuna. “At first we were going to make it out of wood and let it shoot through PVC pipe, so it was more like a crossbow, but we talked it through and decided this design gave us the best opportunity to win.”
Their final design proved successful, launching the ball roughly 140 feet. Ozuna said the launcher could send golf balls up to 205 feet.
“We’ve always done group projects, but never like this where students go out and test fire them,” Schroeder said. “It had the kids excited and they were working nights and weekends in preparation.”