SodaJet: Recycle soda bottles into high flying rockets
Kid-friendly water rockets that launch up to 100 feet into the air! The ultimate science toy for outdoor family fun.
Like most kids, I was always fascinated with things that flew, exploded, or made lots of noise. Eventually, my parents bought me a model rocket kit, and I could barely contain myself. I remember decorating the cardboard tube, gluing on the plastic fins, and loading up the motor in preparation for the launch. When it was finally time to hit the button, the rocket took off so quickly that it almost seemed to disappear. A few seconds later, my eyes caught sight of it up in the sky, falling back toward me. When it finally hit the ground, it had a crooked nose cone, a charred tail, and a few wisps of smoke trailing out the back.
That was awesome.
I told my Dad I wanted to launch it again, but he said we couldn't. The kit only came with one motor, and we'd have to wait to launch the rocket again until we bought another. It was over a week until we made it to the toy store in the next town. I assumed I'd be coming home with hundreds of motors, but when I found them, they were more expensive than my young mind ever imagined. He offered to buy me a pack of 3, but I immediately lost interest. I knew that after a few minutes of launching, they'd all be gone.
Fast forward 30 years, and now I'm in the same boat with my own kids. I love introducing them to science, outdoor activities, and basically anything that doesn't involve a singing dinosaur or flying ninja kicks to their siblings' heads. To capture their attention, I knew I needed to find something that was exciting, but safe. It also had to be fun for their friends aged 3 to 12. Little did I know that adults would love it too...
I came up with the idea of building rockets that use air pressure as the fuel source, because air is free, abundant, and much safer than traditional pyrotechnic motors. I found a few designs on the web where the rocket was made from a re-used 2L soda bottle, partially filled with water, which gets ejected from the back. The rockets worked well, but the launchers were all either complex, expensive, or unreliable. That's where I knew I could make an improvement.
I put on my Engineer's hat, and started chucking parts out of my 3D printer as fast as I could draw them up. I began with the release mechanism, because I knew it would be the most critical part. At first, I tried to replicate some ideas I found on the web, but they used plastic springs and other re-purposed parts that caused the launcher to jam or misfire. I then tried a coiled metal spring, but I found that after only a few launches, the spring became distorted due to the immense forces at play.
A few revisions later, I created a new mechanism that used gravity to assist in releasing the rocket. I added a few common rubber bands to prevent misfires, and finally, I had a reliable design. Now, I want you to build one too.
The point of this Kickstarter is to spread the word about how easy it is to build such an inexpensive and cool toy, IF you can get a head start with the right parts. I want to supply folks with those critical parts, and teach them how to build the launcher from those parts and other common items they can buy near their homes. Science and DIY projects are no fun if you can't find the parts you need. I can fix that.
I already have a working prototype, which has lasted a few hundred launches by now. I also have started on improvements to my design so that it can be safely launched by even the tiniest of rocketeers. It's pretty awesome to see my 4 year old daughter tug a string, and put a rocket over the trees with a satisfying boom.
Another huge problem that I'm addressing right now is the fact that not all soda bottles are created equal. You'd think that they're all pretty much the same, but in reality, each soda producer uses bottles of a slightly different shape. The consequence is that a launcher has to be adjusted for a specific bottle type, and that's tedious to do. I have a new design that uses a nifty latching mechanism that works with all the soda brands I've tested so far, with no adjustment needed. Switch from cola to root beer to ginger ale, in no time flat!
Funding Goal - $5K
I'm setting a relatively low kickoff amount, because I know I'm ready to supply folks with the 3D printed parts they need, and a list of all the supplies they need to buy. But remember - if I don't reach this goal, this project won't get Kickstarted at all. If I don't raise at least $5K, no money will change hands, and no parts will be produced. It will be lost forever into the Internet archives of things that never were. Don't let that happen.
Help spread the word by telling your friends, and by sharing this project via email, Facebook, and Twitter. There's no limit to the amount that can be raised. As an incentive, I've added several Stretch Goals that will earn everyone more free parts if this project is a huge success. Please help me out.
Stretch Goal #1 - $25K
The real dream here is to move into enough volume that I can pay for tooling to provide injection molded parts to you instead. This tooling is expensive, but it makes the parts inexpensive, and it speeds the manufacturing immensely. At this funding level, I'll be able to provide you with better parts, sooner.
Stretch Goal #2 - $75K
If you can gather enough friends to get me here, I'll be able to reduce the cost of the individual parts, and provide everyone who backs any kit with an injection molded nose cone and rear fins at no additional cost. These help to keep the rocket on a straight course, and make it go higher. These parts are very slow to print (because of their size) so injection molding is a necessity here.
Stretch Goal #3 - $125K
Get me to this point, and all nose cones will get a parachute container upgrade. Not only will you have an awesome blast off, but the path back to the ground will be an exciting ride as well. I'll alter the nose cone design to accept the parachute, and provide detailed instructions on how to build your parachute in just a few minutes with supplies everyone has at home. As a bonus, this 2 piece nose cone can be used as a payload module to take a small object along for the ride. Astronaut Dora, anyone?
Stretch Goal #4 - $250K
Now we're talking. Who wants to add a video camera to their rocket, and see that launch from another angle? Get me to this point, and I'll throw in an injection molded mount for a miniature camera to record the journey. Once the rocket safely touches down (it has a parachute now, remember?) you can watch the video and see your ground crew fade away as the rocket blasts into the sky. I can't provide free cameras here, but I will provide details on where to purchase small video cameras from $20-100. The mounting bracket, however, is on me.
Use Your Head
This is intended to be a safe, fun, and educational toy for kids and adults alike. Don't spoil that for anyone. Use common sense when loading and firing rockets, so no one gets hurt. Treat the launcher with the respect of a loaded weapon. Never point it at anyone, or anything, when pressurized. Launch rockets directly skyward, and stay as far from the launcher as possible, at all times. Anticipate that small children will be excited and that they may act without thinking. Make certain that an adult is in control of the situation at all times.
Rockets fly well at very low pressures - there's no need to overdo it. Do not use high pressures, especially in the presence of small children, or large groups. It's tempting to keep on pumping, but don't forget that higher pressure equates to higher stored potential energy. If you choose to test the limits of the system, remember that pressurized systems fail without warning. Stay as far away from the launcher as possible. That means using longer air hoses, extended release cables, and proper face and body protection. Ultimately, the person loading the rocket is responsible for the safety of the people and property around it.
In no event shall we be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, to property or life, whatsoever, arising out of or connected with the use or misuse of this product. You, the purchaser and builder of the product kit, are solely responsible for assembling, inspecting, maintaining, and using the launcher in a safe and proper manner at all times. In addition, you, the purchaser, agree to be held accountable for any and all damages related to the use or misuse of this product. If you do not agree to these terms, do not back this project and do not participate in the use of the product. If you do choose to back this project, purchase a kit, and/or assemble the product, you thereby agree to comply with these terms.
Risks and challenges
I honestly don't see a lot of risks to this project. Technically, the hard work is done and the concept proven out. I am a licensed Professional Engineer, and I have the experience and resources to fix any small hiccups quickly.
There are always schedule risks to a project of this complexity, especially when relying on outside contractors (the injection molders). However, I'll be using facilities that I've already worked with, and have grown to trust. They always fix their mistakes quickly, and without cost to me. They also usually cut me a break in the event that I'm the one who screwed up. I'll be adding a little padding to the schedule to try to allow for an extra revision in case it's needed. If not, then everything will start shipping ahead of schedule. I've managed very large projects before, and I have a history of making deadlines.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (49 days)