Precision Ping Pong Propulsion

Precision Ping Pong Propulsion

Description: Students will design and construct a device, capable of launching a ping pong ball at a three-dimensional target, which is placed within a given range.


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Event Supervisor: Rachad Shishakly


 event supervisor info
 Download the current rules here.  
Designed And Built By The Students policy
more event info be careful
 There may be a "Quick Start Kit"  available for this event. 
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 See the Elementary Workshop List for this season
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Will my team be allowed to compete if the bottom of the launching device might scratch the competition floor?


Because of damage that was caused to the floor of the Fraser High School gymnasium during the South Macomb Tournament, this additional clarification is added to the rules.


No device will pass inspection during impound if something sharp or abrasive is found on the bottom of the launching device that may damage the competition floor.  It will not be acceptable to say that competitors will not slide their device while competing. 

Foam clarification

The foam is over 1/2" in depth.


The foam will cover the bottom of the pool.


The bucket will sit atop the foam.


There will be no foam inside the bucket.



UPDATED Is a Data Chart required for Competition?

The Data Chart will be used as a tie-breaker.  Teams should bring an extra copy to each tournament, to submit at impound.  The chart will not be returned to you.

The purpose of the Data Chart is to allow competitors quick access to information allowing them to set up quickly for a given assigned distance. If there is a means that that information can be accessed on the Launch Device rather than a document, this is acceptable. 

Is it allowable for the coach to cut a piece of PVC that is needed for the device? I'm not comfortable with the kids using a saw.

We are not comfortable with the kids using a saw either.  Please keep them safe.

You are allowed to help students with the use of power tools. 

Most saws are too dangerous for an Elementary student.  Other examples, like a drill, might be a good opportunity for supervised use.

If the elastomeric propulsion piece fails (breaks), can we have replacements?

Yes- If you include them with the equipment at impound. They should be easy (quick) due to the 5 minute to shoot all 10 balls.

Can we have multiple devices, due to the possibility of differing bands providing different distances?

No But if you choose to use replacement "rubber bands" they should either be all mounted on a single device or easily switched out due to the time constraint. Also they should be impounded with all necessary components.

Can a ramp be incorporated into the device design?

I would say that the basic premise is for the balls to be launched through the energy imparted to the ball by the elastomeric component. If the intent is to use that component over a ramp edge I would say No for two reasons. First you are not using the energy from the band to 'propel' the balls, and second I do not believe that the potential energy of the ramp is sufficient to move the balls up to and in the target area.

Does a ball that ACCIDENTALLY falls to the floor BEHIND the line while shooting count as a shot?

If the ball falls BEHIND the line I would say pick it up and fire the ball
If it crosses AHEAD of the line, it would count as a MISFIRE and then would NOT score.

If a team changes their elastomeric components to vary distance, WHEN do they make the change?

At the launch line. The clock will be running, so it must be quick and easy to do. 

Can a scoring example be posted to confirm our understanding of the scoring rules?

White Ping Pong balls (7) which enter the wading pool are worth 10 points each OR 70 points (7x10)
Plain Orange Ping Pong balls (2) which enter the wading pool are worth 3 times 10 each OR 60 (2x3x10) points
Striped Orange Ping Pong balls (1) which enter the wading pool is worth 5 times 10 each OR 50 (1x5x10) points
Total if all are in the wading pool would be 70 + 60 + 50 = 180 points

White Ping Pong balls (7) which enter the center bucket are worth 25 points each OR 175 points (7x25)
Plain Orange Ping Pong balls (2) which enter the center bucket are worth 3 times 25 each OR 150 points (2x3x25)
Striped Orange Ping Pong balls (1) which enter the center bucket is worth 5 times 25 each OR 125 points (1x5x25)
Total if all in the center bucket would be 175 + 150 + 125 = 450 points (most possible points)

If you are late with impound 20 points will be deducted from the Teams total score

I saw a store bought slingshot device demonstrated at the workshop. Is that acceptable?

The commercial slingshot attached to a wood base that you saw at the Ping Pong workshop would be ranked in the 2nd tier. 

At the start whistle, can you move the launcher BACKWARD further away from the marked launch line?

Nor part of the launcher can be closer than the marked launch line. There is no restriction on how far back you can be.

Must the launcher be placed on the floor or can it be hand-held or on a flat (non-ramp) platform or stand?

The launcher may be hand held, may sit on the floor or be supported on a platform
Any of the above solutions are acceptable

Can a clothespin (that has a metal spring) be used as the trigger to release the rubber band? The clothespin does not provide any of the stored energy release, but it does have a metal spring..

It is acceptable to use the clothespin with a metal or plastic spring
It is being used as a release mechanism only
So long as the stored energy is provided by an elastomeric product to propel the ping pong balls

UPDATED Will there be anything in the inflatable wading pool during the competition to absorb the impact of approaching ping pong balls?

There will be a layer of foam, about 1" thick, which will reduce the likelihood that balls bounce out.  The bottom of the pool will also be inflated.

I see under FAQ on question no. 3 that you cannot have a ramp. Our design has a ramp like structure to adjust and stabilize the height of the propeller . The propeller works totally on elastomeric force i.e. The ball gets propelled totally by the the elas

It sounds as though the "Ramp" is actually a wedge used to drive / adjust the angle of some portion of the device
So long as it is not driving the ping pong balls, then this would be acceptable under that circumstance

Do the ping pong balls need to be attached to the launcher somehow when we impound our launcher ?

There is nothing in the current rules which require the balls to be attached to the launcher (simply checked in)
They can be contained in a separate bag so long as they are checked in with the launcher during impound
The check in volunteer or the supervisor should be able to verify that only 10 ping pong balls are being impounded

The suggestion for a pan or container was made at Extravaganza solely as a suggestion to facilitate the holding of the ping pong balls prior to shooting so as not to have an ball cross the Launch line by accident

Can the ball bounce on the floor first before it goes in to the pool/bucket.

Yes the ping pong balls may bounce on the floor before entering the target area
In fact the balls may bounce once, more than once or can also, NOT bounce on the floor and fall directly into the target areas

Can a tape measure be included with the impounded items and used during the competition?

Only the launcher, marked balls and data log (if they have one).

No separate tools can be brought in.

But- if a range setting aid (like a tape measure or string) is attached to the launcher, it is considered part of the launcher.


What if a tool (screw driver, pliers, wrench) are needed to make modification to the device?

Elements required to operate or adjust the launcher must be physically attached to the launcher in some fashion 
They can not be loose

Is there a size limit for the launcher? How wide are the launch lines?

There is no size limit for the launchers
The line width is about 18", but launchers can be wider (or narrower) than that.

Is it required that the students be present during impound, or can a coach/parent impound the device on behalf of the team?

The contestants do not have to be present
As a reminder everything required to affect a launch including the launcher, data charts, ping ping balls, any necessary tools ( must be attached to the launcher) and Goggles for safety must all be impounded together

If my school has more than one team participating, may they use the same device?

In general, no.  Each team that has a separate team number must have their own device.



For the regional Macomb tournament, every registered team of up to 16 students must have its own device.  A few of those registered teams are the 2nd team for a school, and are classified as an “Alternate Team”.  Two devices from the same school may be very similar in design, but the students who compete are still expected to make their own device.  Every device must be marked with the Team number.  Accordingly, only one Event Team will be allowed to compete with a given device at that tournament.



At practice tournaments, teams are generally allowed to register more than 16 students, and have “Alternate Team Members” compete.  In these situations, there may be more than one Event Team registered for a given event and team number.  Those multiple event teams may use the device that has their team number.  For more information on participation rules at practice tournaments, see the information published on the Macomb Science Olympiad website, or contact the practice tournament director.

Are safety glasses required to participate in this event?

Yes, as stated in the rules. Side shields (whether clip on or fixed) are preferred.

Is auto loading of the Ping Pong balls allowed?

No. Page 1-Item 3 prohibits this, and states that balls must be loaded individually.