Trick shots, if you’re over the age of 30 and are unfamiliar, are when people throw some sort of ball or Frisbee into a goal in a really difficult manner. The simplest example is the classic half-court basketball shot. But trick shots have become a viral sensation, particularly on YouTube. Skilled throwers can perform some really impressive feats — or at least get one shot right that they can post a video of. Electron Dust’s machine is designed to automate that and throw a ping pong ball perfectly every time.
The goal of this machine is repeatability. It doesn’t have any provisions for changing how it throws the ball, it’s just designed to throw the ball in the exact same way every time. To do that, the ball is held in a wooden slot by two servo motors. The servo arms then start spinning, and release the ping pong ball at a precisely-timed moment. An Arduino Nano is used to control the servos, and a phototransistor monitors the revolutions as the machine spins. It’s not perfect, but it is able to throw a ping pong ball far more reliably than a human could.