How To Be Awesome: Project BattleShip Samaje Pritchett

Make a cannon. Simple right? We were already shown how to make one, all that was left was to just stick on a platform and call it a day. Bing bang boom. Finito.


My team and I found that we gonna be in the long haul for the next 5 months working to make this cannon to the best of our abilities; learning new as a team, and as engineers.

project background

The task at hand was to design a cannon, and a firing system that possessed rotation and elevation capabilities (spinning, and change in angle), and arduino firing code system (LED warning, sounding alarm system, opening/closing valve.) to accurately shoot a tennis ball using air pressure. The grading rubric for this project's requirements can be explained in further detail here.

Art of War: Know Thy Enemy

For starters you can't build what you don't know. So we got to know our cannon. Took it to Red Lobster and everything.

The Barrel Support

First Steps

Our first task was to accommodate for a flaw in the actual cannon itself, the barrels. It turned out that when fired the cannon pvc pipes had no support so it became very unstable, and unsuited for any accuracy. So we began to use our measurements to design a barrel support.

Hole Tests

Next was our hole tests; this was important to find the exact hole size needed for our barrel supports. Precision in every step required that we find the perfect hole down to the thousandth of an inch for our barrels.


We encountered a design flaw in our dimensions; the holes were incorrectly distanced from each other, and the width was too small to cover enough surface area to support the cannon, thus this design for our barrel support initial prototype design was a failure :(

The Comeback Kid

An important lesson is to improve, and learn on your failures. The success of our revised barrel support design proved that.

Barrel Baby

With our barrel support completed this marked our first successful piece to the design of our cannon, and we prepared to enter the next stage.


Included in our cannon tasks was to come up with a firing system. Arduino was our key to that. Using computer programming, circuits, and understanding of coding; we took on the challenge of arduino to learn how to program our very own firing system.

Example of arduino coding done by our team:

Our finalized personal firing code

This code designed by our team programmed an LED status light, a red, yellow green, LED warning light system, relay control (opening/closing sprinkler valve), and included a sounding alarm before firing.


After we finished conquering the art of coding, next was the assembly of our cannon itself, using pvc pipes, cement, primer, and other materials to make a 75psi air firing cannon.

We cut a 4ft and 3ft piece as the barrels of the cannon
Use of cement and primer to glue to the ends of the pipes to attach the joints together
almost done
Attachment of our designed barrel support

The cannon was successfully assembled, and the barrel support attached. Now we had to tackle the cannon platform.

The Platform

Our next step was to complete the platform for our cannon that could operate z-axis, and y-axis rotation (angle elevation, and 360 rotation). So to approach this we began with first outlining the concept for our design.

Concept drawings for our platform base.

Using our Onshape skills we took our idea to the board, and began our design process to print the pieces on our shop bot. Our constraints were that the design could only utilize, at most, a 4x4 ft piece of material wood.

Early designs for our platform pieces

We consulted with Mr. Twiley, and presented this early design, remarks were given to add strength to design through the use of notches as means of attaching parts; rather than smooth surfaces attached just by glue.

Other failed designs
Our finalized design, ready for print.

Next step was the shop bot, but there was more to it. Our bot's drill bit got stuck, and without the right bit size our dimensions for holes would be cut too wide, and the length of our notches would be incorrectly cut, and won't fit.

Attempts made to fix the stuck drill bit
Shop bot
Sanding to fit

With our dimensions messed up due to our Shopbot malfunctions we had to sand our pieces until they could fit.

Putting it together
ground system for the base

Screws were drilled in place to reduce friction when operating the top of the lazy susan (two smooth surface areas that allow 360 degree rotation, typically used as household appliance), and to also keep the platform efficiently grounded when placed to fire.

completed cannon ready for testing


With our cannon completed, we took our projects outside and put them to the test; and with this celebrated the success of our hard work as a class tackling this project, and as a team showing off our ideas coming to life.

Data collected during our testing
Photo of the data collecting process

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