Bright Futures: Potato Cannon Launch

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To build upon the previous week's session of building a PVC cannon. Students will learn and discuss pressure build up, safety procedures, angles, how to measure the speed of the potato, and team building.

General Info

Class Lead: Josh Williams
Length of Class: 1 Hour
Setup: 5 Minutes
Students: 4
Total Staff: 3

- 1 x Built PVC Cannon
- 1 x Bottle of generic Suave Hair Aerosol Spray
- -
- 1 x 5lb bag of potatoes
- 1 x Target
- 1 x Vice Grips, in case end cap of cannon get stuck on)
- 1 x Broom Handle, to help shove potatoes down)
- 1 x Box Cutter to help reduce potato size
- 1 x File, in case we needed to sharpen end of cannon
- 10 x Safety Goggles
- 10 x Ear plugs
- 1 x Camera


We took about 10 minutes to cover the launch process. While in doors, students mimed the steps to:

- Check for Safety
- Hold
- Spray
- Cap
- Check for Safety
- Launch

We then went outside, reviewed safety, and had students work in pairs to launch potatoes.

Unverified, potatoes probably launched between 200 and 400 feet.


  1. During early testing, we were unable to get consistent launches with only 3 - 4 seconds of hair spray. Using 4 to 6 seconds resulted in a launch 5 out of 5 times.
  2. During early testing, we realized that the potato must fit snug
  3. Occasionally the potato would break up when we tried to insert it. Launching was still quite exciting
  4. Learning: We were not coordinated enough to discuss angle of launch, and measuring the distance / speed. 3/4 students had a great time, one of them went along with the project but was not enthusiastic. Next time it would be nice to:
    1. Have someone quickly pace out the distance of the potato launched
    2. Have a target that students would more enthusiastically want to hit
    3. Have a simple setup so students could easily
      1. Record differences in how much hair spray was used
      2. Record the weight of the potato
      3. Record the distance launched
      4. Record the length of flight
  5. Use all of that to do quick comparisons of what affects the distance / speed of the launch
  6. Incredibly loud. Warn other school / staff ahead of time.
    1. Make sure other people watching are behind the person that is controlling the firing mechanism
    2. If the firing mechanism is remote, make sure no one is close to the end of the barrel, even if adjacent to it. Ear ringing occurred when I took photos of it launching while adjacent + a couple feet away from end of barrel.
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