Tennis, Anyone? (Student Instruction)

Students work in teams to design and construct a racket out of everyday materials that can volley a ping-pong ball to hit a target.

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Overview

STEM careers

Grade level

Materials

Substitutions can be made for almost any of these materials:

  • string
  • yarn
  • straws
  • tape
  • paper towel tubes
  • balloons
  • rubber bands
  • glue
  • tinfoil
  • paper clips
  • plastic wrap
  • paper & pens
  • bendable wire
  • small bouncy ball

Instructions

  1. Identify the Problem
    • The most critical step of any engineering challenge is to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
    • The problem you are trying to solve is to make a racket out of everyday materials that reliably and accurately hits a target.
  2. Collect Materials
    • Start collecting materials for your racket.
    • Don’t have all of the items on the list? That’s okay – you don’t need all of them. Look around and see if there are other materials you can use instead or do without.
  3. Brainstorm Designs
    • Look at pictures of a tennis racket online. What do you notice about them? Why do rackets have mesh (crossed strings) instead of a solid surface?
    • Did you know that the crossed strings of a tennis racket create an elastic surface that moves slightly with the ball? Rackets with higher tension (less elastic strings) gives a player more control on where the ball goes. Rackets with lower tension (more elastic strings) gives the player more power to make the ball go farther or faster.
    • As you design your racket, think about:
      • How fine or loosely spaced should the weave of your mesh be?
      • What materials can you make the mesh out of? Try out different materials.
      • How can you attach the mesh to your racket frame so it doesn’t pull apart when you the hit the ball?
      • Does the surface area of your mesh matter? Why or why not?
      • What’s the best thickness for the handle?
  4. Build It
    • Start building! If possible, take pictures of the materials as you build. Maybe one at the beginning, one during the process, and one at the end.
  5. Test It
    • How far you can hit a ball with your racket?
    • Make a target. Tape a piece of paper of paper to a wall or door. Can you hit the target?
    • Add a bullseye to your target – can you hit that?
    • Do you have a partner to play with? Can you volley a ball back and forth with your rackets?
  6. Share Results
    • Share your results and your design with your teacher or parents.
    • Did it work like you thought it would?
    • What design changes would you make?
  7. Make Changes and Try Again!

Activity courtesy of TryEngineering.org

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