Engineering Inside:

2015 Issue 1

Tennis Anyone?

February 2015

Tennis racquetWhen engineers design sports equipment there are a number of factors that must be considered. They use the latest materials, manufacturing techniques, and shapes to enhance sporting – while maintaining the rules of a sport.  In this challenge, you will work with a friend to devise racquets out of everyday materials that will be used to volley a ping pong ball across a table. Sketch out your racquet designs on paper, build the racquets, and test them with your friend.


ping pong ball

Assorted household materials: pipe cleaners, bendable aluminum wire, straws, paper towel tubes, paper clips, tape, balloons, glue, string, foil, plastic wrap, pens, pencils, paper


You are part of a team of engineers who have been given the challenge of designing a tennis racquet out of everyday materials that is strong enough to hold up in a match against your opponent. If you have access to the internet, visit the International Tennis Federation at to gain more understanding about the history and design of tennis racquets.

1. Invite a friend to participate in this challenge. You will each design your own racquet and then test how they stand up against each other in a match.

2. On separate sheets of paper, draw diagrams of your racquets and provide a list of the materials you plan to use.

3. Build your racquets according to your plans. You may adjust the designs during the manufacturing process. If you make revisions to your designs, consider why you are making a change.

4. Try out your racquets! Test whether your racquets hold up when volleying a ping pong ball to each other across a table. See whose racquet can stay intact the longest.

5. During this phase, take note of how the designs of each of your racquets differ, and what elements of each were most effective. There is no right or wrong way to complete this challenge, and much can be learned by observing the engineering ideas of others.


1. How similar was your original design to the actual racquet you built?

2. If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, why did you decide to make revisions?

3. Did your racquet survive the testing phase? If not, what would you have done differently in design or building to ensure it would have survived?

4. At the end of the testing phase, did your racquet experience significant damage? If so, what type of reinforcement would you have incorporated if you did this challenge again?

5. After the testing phase, what features would you have incorporated into a new design? What other materials might you have used?

6. Did your friend’s racquet have design elements that seemed effective or interesting to you? Why?

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