The project “The Flight Path of A Sports Ball” seeks to build an interactive learning device that can accurately demonstrate the Magnus Effect by launching table tennis balls and educating users on the mechanics that can cause bizarre flight paths. The device will utilize a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to allow the user to control variables such as spin, speed, and launch angle to show how these variables can drastically alter the flight path of the ball. The GUI will also give the option for educating the user through videos. These videos contain high speed camera footage to show these effects with incredibly high frames per second. This device will be completely enclosed to ensure the safety of the users, and because of this, we will be designing a ball retrieval system that will reload the collected balls. While the build of this device will be fairly complex, one of our more difficult tasks will be designing the device to allow for ages as low as 3 or 4 to use it without any prior instructions. The size of the device will be close to the length of a ping pong table, but most likely not as wide. Once the product is completed, it is our intention to give the device to the “Discovery Museum” in Reno, NV to use to educate the children that visit their location. We will want to make it slightly portable so that the museum has the ability to relocate it if the need arises.
Proof of Concept
Through the planning phase of the project, a Product Design Specification (PDS) document was created. This document explained to what specs the project would be built to. In this document, the cost requirement was set at less than $1000. Currently, the project has cost roughly $300 – leaving us with $700 to complete the project.
Additionally, the device was to be designed to demonstrate the Magnus Effect within a reasonable length; the purpose of this specification was to limit the overall size of the project. Since the original conceptual design, the team has since abandoned the idea of the base and loader, allowing the user to manually adjust the launch angle and load the table tennis balls themselves. The current project is being constructed to this specification, and the changes will allow us to satisfy the length requirement with ease.
Much of the PDS was to call attention to potential fatigue, wear and tear. With this in mind, the device has since been designed around utilizing low friction components. For the launcher pulleys, a bearing is being used to reduce the friction caused by the rapid rotations. The pulley and the launcher bracket both have shoulders that press against the non-rotating surface to ensure the assembly is rigid, without increasing the overall friction wear on the device.
The material being used is polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The material is relatively inexpensive, durable, and fully recyclable. The device is not under any significant load, so the material will hold up well.
Another significant design specification is relating to the graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI must be large enough for the user to read, or to see the visual aids that will appear on the screen. A final decision on the screen being used has not been reached, but it will likely be a 7 inch touch screen. The information on the screen will not have a tremendously high information density considering the user will be a child.
Lastly, at the end of life for the product, the customer could repair and replace parts to extend the life. The parts being used are easily accessible, and are not unique to the build – this is true, with the exception of the launcher bracket and pulley. The launcher bracket and pulley were designed and are to be machined from raw material. These parts could be duplicated in the future and replaced. If the customer decides that the device is obsolete, some components could be considered scrap and reused, or the entire device material can be recycled.
The device is initially being designed to demonstrate a scientific concept in an easy to understand manner while using visual aids and hands-on activities. This will be done by launching a ball with set spin and velocity so that the ball with be able to show the characteristics of the Magnus effect within the testing zone. The characteristics of the Magnus effect will be the ball curving after the launch, with the curve being slight or severe depending upon the starting parameters. This model will be useful in targeting the demographic of children who have an interest in the sciences. The initial market for this demographic will be science museums such as the Discovery Museum in Reno, Nevada. These science museums will provide easy and constant access to the target demographic, ensuring that the device is providing its intended function. Further markets such as schools are open to being developed if the initial market responds positively to the device.
Fabrication: The nuts, bolts, belts, motors, ball bearings, and the Raspberry Pi 3 were all bought premade. The Raspberry Pi Adafruit Motor HAT came as components and had to be soldered together. The Raspberry Pi case was 3D printed from SOLIDWORKS. The pulleys were made from PVC and cut to design in the manufacturing lab at The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The brackets were made from polycarbonate and milled in the manufacturing lab at UNR. Both the pulleys and the brackets were pre-designed in SOLIDWORKS.
Assembly: First we took a bracket and put two of the pulleys into the upper ball bearings. Then we wrap one of the orange belts around the two pulleys sanded down center. We did the same thing for the lower pulleys. We then wrapped those two pulleys with an orange belt. Next, we put the other end of the bracket onto the pulley axels. After that we put the 4 bolts into the 4 holes in the brackets and tighten then with 4 nuts. With that done, we took our Raspberry Pi and stuck it into the 3D printed case bottom and cover it with the case top so that the holes are aligned. Then we attached the two motors into their appropriate slots in the Raspberry Pi. Finally, we take the two motors and stuck them into the pre-made holes in the right two pulleys. Lastly, the motors were wired into the Raspberry Pi – Motor HAT combination and the motor program was ran using Python.
Testing and Results
Team Magnus intended to test their launcher first by setting up the code and motors so that everything would be set for launch. A ping pong ball would then be loaded into the belts and the ball launched. Using high speed cameras, Team Magnus would be able to view the results of the launch in both standard view and slow motion view. Team Magnus would have launched multiple balls multiple times to see how, by changing the code of the motors, which ball launched would have the most noticeable demonstration of the Magnus Effect. With proper data for these tests, Team Magnus planned to create a fun and interactive way to show the Magnus Effect. However, the motors owned by Team Magnus were not able to actually launch the ball. Although many tests were done to try to get the motors to move the pulleys, the motors ended up not working. Replacement motors were bought, but those two motors did not work in part due to misinformation from the seller of said motors. With a lack of reliable motors, Team Magnus is forced to power their launcher through their hands. With movement of the pulleys, the ball does indeed launch from the launcher. This launch however is extremely weak in comparison to what a ball launched with motors can do. The spin motion is still noticeable on the ball launched, but with such weak power it is impossible to notice the Magnus Effect upon the ball. Overall, with working motors this launcher would have been an excellent way to demonstrate the Magnus Effect, but in its current state it can only a show a fraction of what its original purpose is.
Meet the Team
I am originally from Chelsea, Michigan, but I moved to Reno, Nevada when I was only about 7 years old. I graduated from a local high school and have lived here most of the time since then, minus a few months when I lived in Los Angeles, CA. My academic accomplishments consist of being a NASA Nevada Space Grant Consortium Scholarship recipient for the Spring 2015 semester, and making the Dean’s List during the Fall 2015 semester – despite having several classes with a very high fail rate. One of my proudest academic accomplishments is not only maintaining my grades, but actually improving upon them after my son Sebastian was born in August 2015. After graduation, I will be continuing my education with the pursuit of a Ph.D and transitioning my research interest to Aerospace Engineering.
I was born in Indio, California, but raised in Reno, Nevada. I attended high school at Truckee Meadows Community College, where I earned my honors high school diploma and an Associate of Science Degree. I plan on attending Graduate school right after graduating from UNR, to earn a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering.
I was born in Pennsylvania, but moved to Reno, Nevada when I was 2 years old. I have been living here in Nevada ever since. I obtained my honors high school diploma at Spanish Springs High School and right after graduating high school I immediately went to college at University of Nevada, Reno. My academic accomplishments involve obtaining two scholarships from AmeriCorps by serving two full summers improving the wilderness around Nevada. After graduation, I plan to join the workforce and travel around as part of my job.
I am an international student from Indonesia, specifically the province of Papua. I have lived in USA for almost 3 years. I am also a transferred student from Seattle Central College and have been studying in UNR for a year. Before graduating from my high school in Indonesia, the Education Department of Papua chose 100 students with outstanding academic record, who could have the chance to study overseas. Additional process of choosing was also done by arranging several types of test. After I was chosen to be one of these 100 students, I had to go through an intensive english training for nearly 6 months and then took the IELTS test. The fact that I was in the Dean’s list 2015 is becoming a motivation to do more and work harder. After graduating, I am planning on going back to my home country and help them to grow for a better future.
I was born and raised in Petaluma, California, where I graduated from Casa Grande High School before attending Santa Rosa Junior College. At the Santa Rosa Junior College I pursued a degree in Astrophysics. I later changed my major to Mechanical Engineering just before moving to Reno, Nevada in January of 2014 in order to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. After graduating in May of 2017, I plan on working in industry for a year or two in order to attain experience before attending Graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D in Astrodynamics so that I can achieve my lifelong dream of working with spacecraft.
Team Magnus would like to thank our project mentor, Dr. Hassan Masoud, for creating the idea for the project and for providing advising on the project. We would also like to thank the ME 451-452 staff for educating us on the process of engineering design. We would also like to separately thank Patrick Stampfli for taking time out of his schedule to meet with the team when it was clear we did not know what we were doing. Thank you Tony Berendsen for assisting us with machining and teaching us better ways to design our project. Ultimately, it helped us overcome several engineering design challenges before we knew we had them. Lastly, we would like to thank the Mechanical Engineering department for our education and for proving our class the tools to become successful engineers.