Monday, Sept. 21, 2009
K-STATE'S CAT CANNON PROVIDES BLASTS OF PURPLE PRIDE
SALINA -- Members of Kansas State University at Salina's Cat Cannon Club know what it takes to raise Wildcat spirit to new heights at home K-State football games: teamwork, nerves of steel and being very precise at folding T-shirts.
The Cat Cannon, which shoots T-shirts to the crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, is the product of the engineering technology program at K-State at Salina. The program designed the first Cat Cannon nine years ago when the T-shirt shooter that K-State's mascot, Willie the Wildcat, had been using just couldn't get the shirts high enough to reach fans in the stadium's new upper deck.
The newest version of the Cat Cannon -- Cat Cannon 4.0 -- was introduced last football season. Its design was the brainchild of Steve Goodman, who earned a bachelor's in engineering technology from K-State at Salina in May 2009. He served as Cat Cannon Club president for four years. Goodman used his mechanical engineering technology study course to do a complete redesign of the cannon – something he had been working on in his spare time for several years prior.
Cat Cannon 4.0 can shoot a shirt the length of a football field, and, with a little tweaking, the machine is capable of launching a shirt three times that distance, according to Cat Cannon Club members. The Cat Cannon Club at K-State at Salina is responsible for the care and upkeep of the T-shirt-shooting machine. The machine features a revolver-style loading system, making the shooting process much safer than previous versions that required a student to load the cannon from the end of the barrel, using a stick. The latest edition is made of metal rather than the previous PVC pipe, and runs off of a program logic controller rather than the previous manual systems. It's also completely air-pressure driven, using air canisters regulated to only use up to 200 pounds per square inch of the available 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure.
But even with all of the safety features in place, club members don't get to shoot T-shirts at games until their second year.
"Even though all you have to do is punch in the pressure and hit fire, it takes nerves of steel to shoot the Cat Cannon," said T.J. Hearn, junior in engineering technology, Stafford, and president of the Cat Cannon Club. "It's even more nerve-racking to shoot our smaller cannon at basketball games."
Hearn estimates that the cannon shot more than 1,000 shirts into the stands after it was introduced in the middle of last season and he hopes to shoot even more this football season.
Club members must roll every shirt before it can be shot. Each shirt, no matter what size, must be folded to a width between 4-6 inches then rolled as tightly as possible. The shirts are then wrapped with masking tape on each end and a third band of tape bearing the names of the sponsors is wrapped around the middle. The more tightly wrapped and secured the shirt, the better it shoots.
"There's a lot of amazing teamwork and effort that goes into every game -- from the club, our sponsors, athletics and security," said Hearn. "In the end, you see everything come together when you see the T-shirts fly through the air."
When the Cat Cannon is rolled out for the next K-State football game Saturday, Sept. 26, there will be an honorary member of the club on hand to help. Saturday's game also is Fort Riley Day, so a soldier has been selected to help shoot special T-shirts featuring the First Infantry Division's Big Red One logo to the crowd.
Cat Cannon sponsors include Weis Fire and Safety Equipment Company, GTM Sportswear and K-State at Salina's Student Governing Association.
Members of this year's Cat Cannon Club include the following K-State at Salina students:
Sarah Cherry, freshman in aviation maintenance, Bennington; Trista Gorrell, freshman in engineering technology and technology management, Centerville; Joshua Dreiling, senior in engineering technology, Colwich; Scott Heller, junior in professional pilot, Cunningham; Derek Bean, freshman in aviation maintenance, Hesston; Nathan Simshauser, junior in professional pilot, Lakin; Darren Johnson, junior in technology management, Lincoln; Levi Anderson, freshman in engineering technology, Marion; David Banister, junior in professional pilot, McDonald; Andrew Martin, sophomore in professional pilot, Onaga; Paul Bijonowski, senior in mechanical engineering technology, Salina; Paul Sampson, sophomore in mechanical engineering technology, Wakefield; and Bryce Hedke, freshman in aviation maintenance, Waterville.
From out of state: Mike Potts, freshman in professional pilot, Highlands Ranch, Colo.; and Yvonne Varnado, sophomore in aviation maintenance, Memphis, Tenn.