Sunday, February 20, 2011

Squirrel Launching part two

Part two, Test And Tune

Now that we had a catapult, we were in desperate need of something that desired to be catapulted. A test monkey. A volunteer. A victim. Most likely a test and tune session would be needed afterwards but we had to be certain. After all, the advancement and progression of mankind does not just come about overnight. What would have happened if NASA had just assembled a rocket, stuck a guy inside and then launched it towards the Moon? This was going to require testing, tweaking, modifying and then more testing. Only then would it be possible to guarantee a safe and exhilarating flight for our passengers.

OK, now what could we launch? We didn't have a dog. Trace was off playing basketball. No kitty cats were to be seen. An apple? Too boring. Besides that, an apple would survive the launch intact but the landing was very questionable. We needed something able to survive multiple flings. A stuffed animal. That was it. A medium sized stuffed animal would be perfect. But it was pretty much guaranteed to end up dirty and scuffed and I had no stuffed animals, so the question arose. Might Bradleigh be willing to donate one of her prized animals for the advancement of science? Of course she would, offering no objections whatsoever.. She liked to conduct experiments also and we were able to pick out whichever one we wanted to use, primarily due to the fact that she wasn't here to speak up. This was almost too easy.

Our weapon was cocked, the animal tucked in and the release was pulled. Whoosh! Off went Curious George, soaring toward the heavens, completing a majestic arc and landing with a gentle splat in the yard precisely 8 feet from its launch point. Uh, yeah. Great. This was hardly the Moon shot I had envisioned. Some tweaking and reengineering were definitely called for.

Back to the drawing board. Now let's see. If we relocated the anchor point for our water balloon slingshot further back and also twisted the rubber band stretchy thingys to make them shorter, this would put more tension on the throwing arm and should result in greater range and longer hang time for our clients, thus providing them with a more enjoyable experience. It was a logical theory and it worked beautifully. On paper.

We retreated outside once more to perform our modifications. Yes! Now it had a lot more tension, more spring. Wyatt was having a difficult time even trying to pull the throwing arm down far enough to insert the trigger pin. "Just pull a little harder, Wyatt. Yeah, like that." He yanked a little more.


"No, no, no, not like that."

The throwing arm now had a new feature, a split running halfway down its length. What the hell? When was the last time you heard of a two by four splitting in half? Lengthwise? Stupid thing. I knew that it was going to need to be strong so we had used our best two by four for the throwing arm. The rest of them were old and weathered.

Now what were we supposed to do? Was this going to derail the entire project? Were we hornswoggled? Was this a message from God that we should abandon our rodent rocketeering aspirations? What would the Marines do? Should we just go play tiddlywinks? These were all legitimate questions and they proved difficult to answer.

The project must go on, it was decided. We could either get another two by four or try to repair this one.

We decided to do neither. Wyatt found a 4 foot long piece of PVC pipe and we elected to use it as our new throwing arm. A hole was drilled through it midway, it was bolted through the uprights and a mixing bowl was screwed onto one end of the pipe. Another hole drilled into the very end of it held the hook that we screwed in to anchor one end of our release mechanism. We located a few small pieces of surgical tubing and they were tied into place between the uprights and the throwing arm to serve as a type of booster, to provide more ooomph and help out the water balloon slingshot that was our main form of propulsion. Now we were all set.

Bring on the squirrels!

This is the rodent rocket, cocked, locked, and ready to rock.

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