New Space and Tech

Student-Made Ping-Pong Gadgets at NASA Invention Challenge

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
Filed under , ,

WHAT: Middle- and high-school teams have built unique devices to compete in the “Ping-Pong Ball Climb Contest,” the 13th annual Invention Challenge hosted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 10.

The objective is to create a device capable of lifting an officially supplied ping-pong ball from near the ground and cause the ball to touch and hold against a ceiling located 2 meters (about 6.6 feet) above ground. The winner will be the team whose device accomplishes this task in the fastest time.
Twenty student teams from throughout Southern California will watch to see how fast their ping-pong ball can accomplish the task at hand. The student teams were invited to the JPL Invention Challenge based on results from two regional contests held in November. Twelve teams of JPL engineers and scientists will also compete.

While the contest rules change each year, the result is the same: students get a better appreciation that math, science and engineering can be fun.

This year’s devices must be initiated by a single operation (cut a string, flick a switch, etc.), use safe energy sources, and can be no larger, prior to the start of the task, than 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) high by 1.2 meters (about 3.9 feet) wide by 1.2 meters (about 3.9 feet) long. The devices must be made from non-toxic and safe materials.

First-, second- and third-place trophies will be awarded in the student and JPL categories for the fastest time to complete the task. Certificates will be awarded for the lightest, heaviest, smallest, largest, most unusual, most artistic and most creative designs.

More information is at: .

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine.

WHERE: JPL mall area, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, Calif. 91109. JPL is located off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway.

CONTACT: RSVP to Priscilla Vega in the JPL Media Relations Office at 818-354-1357 by Thursday, Dec. 9, at 4 p.m. to arrange access to JPL. Valid media credentials are required. Non-citizens must also bring passports.

2010 JPL Invention Challenge: Participating Schools

1. Pacific Technology School, Costa Mesa
2. Crescenta Valley High School, La Crescenta
3. Monroe Magnet Middle School, Inglewood (two teams)
4. Los Angeles High School, Los Angeles (two teams)
5. Diamond Bar High School, Diamond Bar
6. Temple City High School, Temple City
7. South East High School, South Gate
8. Morningside High School, Inglewood (two teams)
9. Monrovia High School, Monrovia
10. Magnolia Science Academy, Carson
11. Savanna High School, Anaheim
12. Alexander Hamilton High School, Los Angeles
13. Alhambra High School, Alhambra
14. Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena
15. South Pasadena High School, South Pasadena
16. Culver City High School, Culver City
17. Saddleback High School, Santa Ana

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.