Monday, December 10, 2018

Gespalt DIY Water Rocket Altimeter

Welcome to Gespalt, a water-rocket altimeter that you can build yourself for less than $10 (USD).

Why would you want to build one? And how hard would it be? Read on to find out how Gespalt lets you take water rockets to the next level (hah!) and how easy it is to get started.


Why?

Because water rockets are AWESOME! But as soon as you launch your first one, the questions come bursting out of you:
  • If I use fizzy pop instead of water, will it go higher?
  • If I add more water - or less water - will it go higher?
  • If I strap a rock onto the nose, will it go higher?
  • If I make a sharp nosecone, will it go higher?
  • If I add fins, will it go higher?
So you start trying out these ideas, but it's hard to tell exactly how high your rocket went each time. And after spending hours making a beautiful nosecone and fins, you see your beautiful rocket now streaks smoothly into the sky! But seconds later, you find that it also streaks smoothly into the ground, destroying all your hard work in a spectacular high speed crash. 

And so another budding engineer goes and plays stupid games on their phone, instead of changing the world.

But what if there was something that showed exactly how high your water rocket went? And maybe that something could also trigger a parachute - or wings or something - so it didn't destroy itself every launch? And if it only cost ten bucks, it wouldn't make too much of a dent in your pocket money. 

Best of all, as well learning about rockets, you'd learn how to make micro-controllers do really cool things! Maybe water rockets CAN be more fun than Candy Crush...

But Why Gespalt?

Yes, it's an awful name (from Greg's ESP8266 ALTimeter), but the project has to be called something. And I like that you can see "ge-splat" if you squint, which is what will happen to your water rocket if you don't have a Gespalt.

How?

Easy! First, you order a handful of bits and pieces on the internet - and wait patiently for them to arrive. Then you need a steady hand to solder about 15 connections, and finally you download some free software so you can program the micro-controller. 

You will also need access to a soldering iron, a computer, and a few common tools. If you can't borrow a soldering iron, you can buy your own for under $10, and most households have everything else you need.

I'll lead you through each step, explaining how everything works and how they go together. If you are new to electronics and programming, don't worry - making a Gespalt is a great way to dip your toe in the water.

Sounds fun? Then let's get started!

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