In my Intro to Engineering class during my first semester at UCONN, I was assigned a group project of creating a catapult using limited resources. We were given a budget of imaginary currency, and a catalog from which we could “purchase” materials that we could build our catapult with. The catapult had to shoot a ping pong ball to hit two targets at set distances away. A combination of least amount of currency used, and high degree of accuracy with your catapult shot would win you the most points.
I decided right off the bat that I wanted to take complete creative control over this project. I typically enjoy working as a team, but for this project I wanted to really test myself and see what I could do. I picked teammates that agreed to allow me to do all the work for the project. As soon as we were signed up, I drew up a materials list, spending the smallest amount on materials that I could manage while still purchasing what I needed.
I immediately got to work after purchasing my materials from the engineering department’s office. After driving home to pick up some tools, I began hacking my plywood into pieces dictated by the template I drew up beforehand. In a few hours, I had the frame assembled, and the next day I had calibrated the tension in the rubber bands so that the catapult would fire consistently to where the targets would be.
As an extra credit component of the project, we could automate the firing process using an Arduino microcontroller and a small stepper motor. After writing a quick bit of code, and attaching the motor and Arduino, the catapult was finished.
After the competition, my catapult came in first in regards to accuracy of shots, the first target being hit exactly in the center, and the second shot landing about a foot away from its target. With the cost of materials taken into account, my catapult came in third, still winning me and my team some prizes from the engineering department.