Men vs. Women Target Practice in Ballistics Lab

Learning to investigate manner of death is a part of criminal justice, but it’s not the doom-and-gloom process you might imagine. In fact, Professor John Moore and his Forensic Science II: Death Analysis class (SCI 208) had quite a ‘blast’ at it recently.


After searching unsuccessfully for a way to build “ping-pong ball cannons” for the ballistics lab section of SCI 208, Natural Sciences Administrative Assistant Karen Rocha stumbled across what are called “K-9 Kannons,” which are simply glorified tennis ball launchers. They work great—used incorrectly, they can actually launch ping-pong balls, too!

It's women vs. men in Forensic Science II: Death Analysis.
It’s women vs. men in Forensic Science II: Death Analysis.

Students were asked to hit a target (an open box on its side) at the far end of the lab, which requires a fast and flat trajectory (12–18” maximum ordinate). Following that, they were asked to “lob” a ball into the top of a box that is only a few feet away from the launcher, requiring a very slow and high trajectory (maximum ordinate approaching the ceiling). The goal was to adjust velocity and launch vectors to attempt to hit the target.

From a military perspective, the two tasks are the equivalent to a sniper and a mortar. In both classes, “teams” were set up men vs. women.

I am SO glad we decided to keep the high ceiling in that lab!

One of the guys launches downrange.
One of the guys launches downrange.

This spring, students only dealt with projectile velocity and the departure vector from the launcher. Next year, I will likely alter the actual mass of the projectiles, thus throwing them another variable to deal with.

(By the way, the guys took one of the sections, and the ladies took the other!)

To learn more about Parkland’s Forensic Science courses or other courses and programs in the Natural Sciences, visit the Natural Sciences web pages.

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