Close Enough Space Program 2016
I had wanted to build a “poofer” since I saw one online about five years ago,. I talked about it a fair amount with friends and we had grand plans of creating one. We even went as far as making a sheet metal cone, but that was about as far as it got.
This year was the big year of the “Close Enough” Party also known as “The Festival of Life”. My Dad and his high school friends built a house together when they where in college. They called that house “Close Enough” as they didn’t have any measuring tapes or levels so everything was just close enough… At the end of every summer they would have a festival, so everyone could get together and see all their friends before school started. As they got older they decided to have the party every four years to help soften the time and cost of putting on a party of this magnitude. You are probably wondering why I am telling you about this but I will get to that shortly.
My friend Adam and I got talking earlier this year and thought we should build something fun. And the topic of the “poofer” came up. In agreement with Adam, I said yes we should build a “poofer”, but we should make it into something more, because a “poofer” will be too easy to build on its own. If you don’t know what a “poofer” is then look at the pictures above! Or read below.
In the simplest of terms, it is a flame thrower. A holding tank of propane fills an expansion tank and then attached to that expansion tank is a long pipe with a valve in it. When the valve is released the entire contents of the tank is expelled and it is ignited via a pilot light as it exits the firing barrel. Our particular design had a bit more to it though. We had two different size barrels to create two different types of flames. We had one large barrel that produced a slower rolling yellow flame and one smaller barrel that produced a fast blue jet. Both of the flames where controlled via electronic valves. The controls for the system where run from a Raspberry Pi which is a microcomputer. On the Raspberry Pi I had a socket network running in Python that worked wirelessly with an IPhone App that I made. The app consisted of different buttons for the different type of flame options, as well as the ability to turn on and off the elwire (neon illuminated wire) that outlined the “poofer”. Now that I am done explaining what the “poofer” actually is and does let’s talk a bit more about the project.
The plan was to make a rocket, but not just any rocket, a whimsical rocket! Something fun, that people would see and would make them smile! We talked about it for a while and sketched up many different ideas of what it could look like. Then armed with those loose scribble filled pages I headed to to the computer to create some drawings in CAD that we could send to a water jet.
I found a company down in Western MA called Electric Time. They are one of the main manufacturing companies of large scale clocks. They build everything from sports stadium 40’ diameter clocks to smaller store front clocks. They had a very impressive factory and were nice enough to let us rent time on their water jet. A water jet for those of you who don’t know, is a machine that uses water mixed with an aggregate at very high pressures to cut things like metal and stone very precisely. This was key for this project so that we could get a nice finished look.
Once we got the parts back in Vermont, Adam and I set to work welding them together. The parts where flat but Adam had a great idea to make these angled brackets that we could weld into place to force the flat sections into shape. Once we had the whole unit welded up, we ground all the seams smooth and we were left with a giant metal pickle!
From here we added the fins and the “poofer” internals. Then I fashioned up a cone to go around the jets for added flair. Adam chopped off the top at an angle so that it looked like the rocket crash landed. Then we painted it up, added the decals, placed elwire on the seams of the rocket and “bobs your uncle”. We were ready for lift off.
So remember that party I told you about earlier. Well this rocket was built for that. As a show piece and a way to get everybody excited to once again be together. It was a huge hit! My favorite part was walking around with my phone and giving people the satisfaction of firing it off. Peoples faces lit up with glee when they hit those buttons on the screen! It made all the hard work worth it. Well done Adam, I couldn’t have pulled it off with out you!