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Pneumatic Candy Canon Delivers COVID-Safe Halloween

Halloween is big deal in our household. Now is the time when I start thinking about how we might revise or update the presentation. With the onset of COVID, in 2020, we decided to skip the year. Prior to the availability of vaccines there was no way to ensure a safe experience with what has historically been a large crowd.

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

In 2021, given the availability of vaccines, we opted to resume engagement with trick-or-treaters. However, we did so taking precautions to keep our boo-crew at a safe distance from the kiddos. The core of this strategy was not allowing trick-or-treaters into the yard.

Instead, we enhanced the decor along our fence line, and delivered candy to the front gate using a pneumatic candy canon. While not yet perfect, this worked quite well. This post details some of the design considerations, experiments, and lessons learned in creating the candy canon.

Others in the neighborhood were experimenting with using PVC pipe to create a candy chute from a second story window to their fence line. This was nice and simple, since gravity did all the work for you. However, ours is a single story home. Further, we didn’t relish the idea of Boo Crew on the sloped roof.

I thought it possible to use air pressure to push the candy along the tube, not unlike the system we find at drive-up banks or pharmacies. I could use our existing Shop-Vac in reverse to generate the air flow, connecting it to a length of PVC pipe.

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Flume: Know About The Flow

As I’ve mentioned previously, household instrumentation is addictive. Further, it can draw out my compulsive tendencies. I’ve been wanting to add a smart water flow meter to our home for a while. This was motivated by the fact that we have gardens, and we occasionally forget the water is on. On such occasions the result is a soggy, boggy part of the yard and an unwelcome spike in the water bill.

A False Start

Last year, I tried an initial experiment using the Orbit B-Hyve Smart Hose Faucet timer. This device would only control one faucet, but under $60, it was cheap. I thought it a good experiment. The trouble is I could not get it to work for me. I was never able to get its little hub to connect to the device.

As a result, I returned it and began to investigate devices that would meter flow in the main water line from the city. I hoped that I could set an alert to tell me if we left the water running too long or into the evening. It would not turn off the water, just alert me that I had to do it.

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

I considered two kinds of add-on flow meters designed for DIY installation by the homeowner. One type, as embodied in the Stream Labs Smart Home Water Monitor, clamps onto the water supply line and read the flow using an ultrasonic beam sent through the pipe. They work with copper or plastic pipe. At our home the main water supply line from the city is plastic, so this could work for us.

Flume-Box-and-Devices-copy

However, I settled on the simpler approach used by the Flume water flow meter. It has a sensor device that clamps onto the city water meter. This senses the motion of a magnet on the rotating mechanism inside the city meter.

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