Students ace ‘Hole-In-One’ contest at JPL

Students from 19 high school teams across Southern California, as well as NASA professionals, took part in a “Hole-in-One” contest in the Invention Challenge last month at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif.

The objective of the annual challenge was to create a device that could propel or move a golf ball into a pyramid-shaped target located about 5 feet (1.5 meters) away from the device. Only one attempt was allowed, and the team that completed the task in the fastest time was crowned the winner. Taking the top prize was Alexander Hamilton High School, located in Los Angeles. They shot a hole-in-one in just 0.6 seconds. Paul MacNeal of JPL created and produced the first Invention Challenge 16 years ago and has been running it ever since. “All students should be exposed to the fun of engineering in this thought-provoking event,” said MacNeal. “Students learn skills that are valuable, like brainstorming, teamwork, scheduling, fabrication, failure analysis and competitive design. When they see real engineers having fun, they can believe that engineering might make for a good career goal.”

And while the Invention Challenge is really for the kids, JPL employees are always encouraged to participate. This year, 11 additional teams made up of engineers and scientists from JPL competed for pure bragging rights. The JPL winning team, consisting of Alan DeVault and Scott Nolte, earned a time of 0.62 seconds, a hair slower than the winning student team. If you’re interested in getting the specs on next year’s challenge, start checking the Invention Challenge Web site in mid-August 2014 for details, at:

This article appeared in the 5th issue of RocketSTEM magazine.

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