TAMPA – How far can a tennis ball fly with the help of duct tape and a couple of eighth-graders?
Not quite as far as the eighth-graders hoped, as it turned out, but Jake Orlick and Jonah Gordon wanted to know. Everything was going fine with their cannon project, launching tennis balls into the great blue sky, until presentation day. With only minutes to go before their demonstration to the entire student body at Hillel Academy of Tampa as well as many parents and faculty, their cannon sprung a leak.
Nobody panicked. Duct tape was obtained, and once again, proved that nearly any mechanical problem can be solved with its judicious use. Leak sealed, the cannon worked.
It was all part of Hillel’s project night, where students from the school, at 2020 W. Fletcher Ave., came up with their own projects and got to display them.
Jake and Jonah came up with the idea after studying the Renaissance and wondering how they got their cannons to work so long ago.
“We were just wondering what we were going to do for a project and we were learning about the Renaissance,” Jake said. “It sounded like fun to launch something. We were looking for ‘wow’ factor.”
They started shooting cherries as part of one of their regular classes as part of a “Cherry Chunkin’ Challenge,” and then decided to shoot for the moon. The tennis balls didn’t make it quite that far, but far enough that they had to use a vacant field to practice.
The project involved an air compressor and a very long tube. They had already sent a cherry the length of a football field, so, with a budget of $20, they went to work for bigger and better.
“We made some replacements, added pressure and put our physics lessons to use,” Jonah said. “Everything was going great until we found the leak just before it was time.”
All of the Hillel projects were set up throughout the school. Jake and Jonah had a display set up until it was time and everybody had to go outside. The duct tape was as good as advertised and the tennis balls went far into the sunset.
So what is the next step? Both are interested in medicine and, needless to say, college is already on their radar. As far as their cannon, Jake said he thinks it could be of use in many ways.
“We didn’t invent the idea,” Jake said. “But there are ways it can be used in the space program or a lot of other ways.”