Ping Pong News
Portland State University mechanical engineering student, Karl Cardin's hydrophobic ping pong paddles made their galactic debut this past week when Astronaut Scott Kelly tested their abilities while aboard the International Space Station.
Cardin, 22, started work on the ultra water repellent paddles, which according to a PSU press release are made of " hydrophobic polycarbonite material etched with a series of 0.3mm-wide air channels which form a grid pattern, " back in July. He tested hundreds of different surfaces and geometric patterns.
Until handing the paddles over to NASA and the end of last year, Cardin tested the paddles hydrophobic abilities in the school's Dryden drop tower, which simulates a zero gravity environment. The experiment lasts 2.1 seconds, which is the time is takes the rig to fall five stories before coming to a complete stop. Cardin estimates he and his fellow students ran the drop approximately 5, 000 times. Still, at 2.1 seconds intervals, cumulatively that comes to just shy of three-hours of "zero-g" simulation.
So, you can imagine the college senior's surprise when he found out NASA would be testing the paddles in space.
Thursday, NASA released a one-minute clip showing Astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently nearing the end of his one-year mission aboard the ISS, In the video Kelly passes a large water droplet, which looks more like a piece of gelatin, between the two paddles. PSU's college of engineering has a partnership with NASA.
"So, I've watched the video in completeness probably 30 times, " Cardin told KATU News.
To be clear, the goal was not to create gear for a ping pong game in space, though, that is entirely possible now. The paddle, Cardin explains, is a fun, tangible application of the surface technology. He says the space station testing can lead to the ability to grow plants in space, improve life support systems and on earth, replace the need for windshield wipers ( think ultra-hydrophobic windshields).
Cardin, who will graduate from PSU later this year says, as a kid, money was tight. His parent often purchased toys from the nearby Goodwill. Some of the toys would already be broken, he says, so he would take them apart and see how they worked.
"And then from I think third grade my teacher said, Hey, 'I think Karl should be a mechanical engineer, '" Cardin continued.