Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter

Designers: Laamia Islam, Anurag Kondapalli, Lydia Lim, Prithviraj Singha Roy

Client Coordinator: Roger Schultz

Supervising Professor: Larry Bohs


Photo of Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter

Figure 1. Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter


Students with disabilities in Mr. Schultz’s classroom at Riverside High School enjoy physical, interactive activities.  The goal of this project is to create a safe and fun device that launches balls at the press of a switch.  The Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter (SCBS) is based on a modified ball pitcher.  Two modes allow balls to shoot either repeatedly after a short delay, or upon each press of a light-touch switch.  The shooter rests on a rotating base for aiming the shot.  LED’s on the base provide a visual indication that a shot will soon occur.  With this device, students can enjoy physical interaction by shooting balls at each other or their teacher.


The Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter enables students with disabilities to participate in a stimulating activity.

Previously, Mr. Schultz found that students enjoyed the surprise and excitement of having balls thrown at them.  With the device, students can “throw” balls themselves, making the activity much more engaging and empowering. Because the SCBS can be activated by any commercial switch, students with a wide range of disabilities can participate.  Mr. Schultz commented, “The shooter has been a lot of fun and enabled my students to engage in playful and enjoyable interactions with the people around them.  The shooter project enables them to engage in fun interactions previously beyond their physical abilities.”


The Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter (Figure 1) comprises a Lazy Susan base with acrylic cover and LED’s, a ball shooter, a helical ramp, a control box, and a touch-pad switch. The base is a 19” diameter, wooden Lazy Susan with 360 degree rotation, allowing shots to be aimed as desired.  A blue circular piece of ¼” acrylic mounts to the top of the base, and contains 36 embedded LEDs that sequentially light up before the ball is launched.

A modified MLB pitching machine (Franklin Sports model 6696S3) attaches to the base. This machine contains two rotating wheels, each powered by a DC motor, which shoot balls as they pass between the wheels.  A custom yellow exit tube, 4.75” in diameter and made using a 3D prototyping printer, attaches to the mouth of the pitcher to prevent hands from reaching the rotating wheels. A detachable helical ramp, supplied with the pitching machine, allows several balls to be loaded for successive shooting.

The 7×5.6×2.5” control box is made of ¼” acrylic and contains custom circuitry and six D batteries. One side of the controls box is slanted, providing s a platform for a commercial 4.5×6” light-touch switch (Pal Pad). The switch cord plugs into a 1/8” jack on the side of the control box, allowing the SCBS to be activated with any commercial switch.

Photo of Student using Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter

Figure 2. Student using Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter


Student Switch-Controlled Ball Shooter

The device can operate in either switch or automatic mode. In switch mode, a press of the switch activates a microcontroller (PICAXE-X22), which triggers a ball to shoot after a ten second delay During this time, 36 LED’s, mounted on the acrylic base, light sequentially to help the student to anticipate the shot.   In automatic mode, balls launch every ten seconds as long as the device senses a loaded ball via a weight-activated switch.  A speed control knob on the side of the control box varies the voltage to a regulator circuit, which allows the user to select the desired velocity, thereby providing a shot range of 6-16’.

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