■ FIGURE 1. The Ponginator MK-II
frame test-fit on the van.
■ FIGURE 2. Testing the pneumatic
cannons on the new frame.
■ FIGURE 3. Test-fitting the Ponginator
MK-III on the new bucket lift.
As we would need transportation to and from the
event anyway, we decided my full-sized Ford van could act
as both the frame and the anchor. We fabricated a new
PVC-pipe frame from scratch that mounted to the top of
the van (Figure 1). We then mounted the crossbar and
hung the pneumatic cannons to make sure they could still
move properly (Figure 2). Though we still had the original
Ponginator "skin," we discovered we would need to make
a new one as the old one had both a hole cut for a video
display (not practical in the MK-II design) and was also
about five feet too big for the new frame.
In spite of having to do a thorough retrofit, on the day
of the show we managed to assemble the Ponginator for the
first time in downtown Austin without any major issues. The
MK-II was a smash hit, thrilling crowds with his siren wail and
catchy dance tunes. This event also saw the unveiling of the
Ping Pong Printer, which didn't exactly go as planned either
(are you seeing a trend here?), but we'll touch on that in a bit.
THE PONGINATOR MK-III
After this last show was done, the Ponginator again
went into a storage shed until the next big event: Maker
■ FIGURE 4. The Ponginator
MK-III towering 30 feet up
in the air.
■ FIGURE 5. The Ping Pong
Printer with plastic water
Faire Austin 2008. By the time this event rolled around,
I had sold the van so we no longer had our "base."
However, as luck would have it, my brother Walt had
recently purchased a 30 foot hydraulic bucket-lift for his
construction company and was happy to let us use it.
We brought all the parts out of storage and mounted
them on the lift bucket (Figure 3). After fabricating new brackets,
adding shelves for the speakers, and mounting the air compressor,
we towed the lift out from under the trees and extended it
to its full height of 30 feet (Figure 4). It looked AMAZING!
When it was time for the event, we trucked the lift out
to the Maker Faire show but on the way, one of the gear motors
that positions the cannons stripped due to stresses on the
mounts created by the movement of the trailer while being
towed. We had to quickly swap motors out on the show floor
when we arrived. As before, we put all the new electronics
and pneumatics together for the first time right there at the
show. Once again, the Ponginator lived up to its reputation, not
only earning us another Maker Faire "Editors Choice" Blue Ribbon,
but also being immortalized on a MAKE poster, and then to
headlining on the GeeksAreSexy.com website, among others.
This is a perfect example of how a project can still
enjoy continuous success in spite of changing circumstances if the people involved persist. Which brings us to
the Ping Pong Printer — a rather problem-plagued device
that grew out of the Ponginator project.
PING PONG PRINTER PROBLEMS
The Ping Pong Printer was featured in my February ‘08
column and was basically a solution to an economic problem.
Turns out the Ponginator uses up lots of ping pong balls when
it's in operation. As we wanted the ping pong balls to be souvenirs
(and not just trash), we had some custom-printed ping pong
balls created for the MK-I. Though these worked fine, they turned
out to be very expensive (on the order of about . 60 cents each!).
The Ping Pong Printer was designed to allow us to
create our own "ordnance" for the Ponginator. It was built
by a team of folks from The Robot Group including myself
(programming), Rick Abbott (metal/plastic fabrication),
and Marvin Niebuhr (carpentry).
THAT JAMMED JUG!
When I first designed the Ping Pong Printer, a five