The Kite-Launched Skydiver Challenge

Geek Culture

It’s spring. Wind’s up. Time to break out the kites.

Flying kites is one of those great outdoor activities that scales well with age. A preschooler can have fun helping to build and launch a simple kite. On the other end of the spectrum are the adult artists, photographers, kite surfers, kite-ice-butt-boarders (not for the risk-averse!), and others who push the envelope of how kites can be used.

Last weekend, I brought home a simple, solidly built $10 kite for the next clear, windy weekend day. Knowing that our preschooler won’t be terribly interested in holding the reel after the kite is launched, I’ve come up with an idea that should be huge fun — and will get him running all over the park.

I’m going to enable him to use the kite line to launch (and relaunch) a toy skydiver. (As per my wonderfully artistic drawing here.)

And here’s my challenge to you:

1. Design a shuttle that

  • transports the skydiver with chute up the line,

  • releases him when he reaches the kite,
  • returns to the reel after release, and
  • can be reloaded without retrieving the kite.

2. Allowable materials:

  • a single plastic drinking straw

  • a single paperclip

3. Post a comment including a link to a photo of your design and a photo of it being deployed in the field.

I’ll post the results in a few weeks. Here’s a photo of my first design iteration in both closed (before skydiver release) and open (after release) positions.

The kite would be located down the line to the left. The parachute will pull the shuttle up the line to the kite, where a small washer between the line and the kite bridle will serve as the stop that will force the paperclip through the straw and open the hook, releasing the skydiver. Without the tension of the parachute pulled it up the line, the shuttle will slide back down to the reel as my son races off to retrieve the skydiver.

That’s the theory anyway.

Gentlemen, load your mechanical pencils.

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