Friday, December 01, 2006

Safety First! A Few Guidelines

A year ago, at our third club meeting ever, I was bracing the potato gun against my side when we fired it. Today at our fourth club meeting of the year, Jason was doing pretty much the same thing. Every other potato gun launch we've ever done has been perfectly fine. But these two times, we got a pair of holes in our shirt. Why? And how can you prevent it? (HINT: it's very easy and totally reliable.)

Potato Gun Safety

  1. Never walk in front of the potato gun while it's primed and loaded. Actually, I'd avoid walking in front of it any time it's being used. If you do have to walk in front, be sure the person holding it AND the person holding the ignition switch know you're there.
  2. If you're holding the igniter, NEVER go until the chamber lid is firmly on. Wait until after the person who screwed it on takes his or her hand away. Willy got burned once because someone jumped the gun and clicked too soon.
  3. And here's the one Jason and I have to pay attention to. Notice where the two wires from the igniter go through the PVC and into the chamber. See the two little holes? Jason and I got burned because we had them facing towards us. Normally its not a problem, because most of our potato guns have those holes epoxied. (Epoxy is that super-strong glue stuff.) If the holes are epoxied, you're perfectly safe. Don't worry at all. We've done this dozens of times, if not hundreds. If you can't tell whether or not there's any epoxy (think glue) around the holes, tell one of the club presidents or a teacher. But as long as you keep the holes facing away from you, you'll be completely fine. It's a very very small flame coming out of there, and it only goes for an instant.


  1. Don't be near the rocket when it fires. If you're launching it, stand as far back as the wire length will allow. If you're not launching it, stand even farther back.
  2. Don't stand behind the rocket, or downwind of it. You'll get a mouthful of yucky yucky smoke. It's not really dangerous, but it's yucky.
  3. Never try igniting the engine with anything other than the electronic igniter.

Other than that, don't do anything dumb. When in doubt, ask a teacher. Or me. Or Peter. Or Vivek.

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