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Paddles developed at PSU let astronauts play ping-pong

Student Scott Kelly's invention travels to outer space


COURTESY: PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Portland State University mechanical engineering student Karl Cardin with his hydrophobic paddle invention that is now on the International Space Station. Water sports take on a whole new meaning in space.

NASA released a video Thursday of Astronaut Scott Kelly playing “ping-pong” with a ball of water and two hydrophobic paddles developed at Portland State University.

The paddles were developed by Karl Cardin, a senior in mechanical engineering, as part of research into how hydrophobic (water-repellant) surfaces could be used to cool off space craft.

But, says astronaut Kelly, they are also fun.

“Here on the space station, they allow you to play ping-pong with a ball of water. And it’s pretty cool,” Kelly says in the video.

In the micro-gravity of the International Space Station, water forms into a floating ball. Kelly uses the paddles to bounce the ball back and forth.

According to a news release from PSU, Cardin made the paddles from hydrophobic polycarbonite material that is etched with a geometric pattern that exploits surface tension to repel water.

Cardin was able to test and refine his design at PSU’s Dryden Drop Tower at the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.




Shasta Kearns Moore
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