Dangerous but fun

Near Space Balloon Launch

In the fall of 2012 I helped a group of middle school students send a GoPRO HD video camera to "near space".  What follows are the details of the project.

Here is the 3 minute video showing the highlights of the launch and recovery:

Asheville, NC Tedx Near Space Project from Peter Lutz on Vimeo.



Project Facts:

  • 1200 gram latex weather balloon was filled with 150 cubic feet of helium -- weather balloon was approximately 6 feet in diameter at lift off.
  • Payload was an off-the-shelf styrofoam cooler that was modified for this project.
  • Payload weighed 4 pounds.
  • Payload contents included: GoPRO Hero 2 HD video camera with a 32 GB memory card and extra battery pack, SPOT gps unit, PocketFinder gps unit, personal items from each student
  • Launched on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 9:20 am EST
  • Launching location:  Francine Delany New School for Children Charter School (www.fdnsc.net) in Asheville, NC
  • This project was a collaboration between the school and TEDx Asheville 2012.

more coming...

Trebuchet -- human powered, portable, water balloon launching


This trebuchet launches softball size water balloons 50 - 70 yards using human (kid) power. It is portable (quickly folds down for car top carrying) and uses easy to acquire supplies found at Home Depot or Lowes Home Improvement.

I originally designed this for the kids area of the Lake Eden Arts Festival (theLEAF.org) where we launched water balloons at a large cardboard castle.The video below shows the trebuchets in action at TEDx Katuah 2011 where I was asked to provide a "hands on science" experience for conference attendees. At the TEDx event we launched "deer apples" (rotting apples) instead of water balloons and our best throw with the apples was 85 yards.

Thurburn_barker_trebuchetThe TEDx Katuah event was held at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (www.PARI.edu) which was originally designe for the NASA space program.  After NASA, the CIA used PARI to spy on the Russians. One of the employees at PARI is Thurburn Barker (pictured here with my son).  Mr. Barker worked for NASA during the early days of the manned space program and he was fascinated with the trebuchets.

Since the TEDx Katuah 2011 event I've continued to improve on the trebuchet design, especially the end of the throwing arm. 



View video of the trebuchet in action below:


Full Contact Pinata

My kids LOVE pinatas.  I developed "Full Contact Pinata" in an effort to ramp up the fun and give the pinata a chance to fight back.

Fill a pinata with oranges and apples and then reinforce with clear packaging tape.  Build a device to help get the pinata moving fast and then insert gladiator.

This video clip is from one of my birthday parties.

Floating Arm Trebuchet I built with my son

In November 2006 I traveled with my son to watch the World Champion Punkin Chunkin Contest in Delaware.  It was a truly awesome event and someday I'd like to compete.

In December 2006 my father in-law gave me a Floating Arm Trebuchet kit that my son and I built together.  The video clip below shows the trebuchet in action.  It will launch a golf ball 100 yards with just 10 pounds of counter weight!