Invention catapults to success

Emily Kim, Feature Editor

Diamond Bar High School freshmen Megan Ho and Joshua Chou, together known as “Project Defying Gravity,” won the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Annual Invention Challenge over 19 other teams from Southern California.         

This year, the contest tasked participants with creating a device to launch 10 wiffle balls into a plastic tub located six meters away in one minute. To prevent disqualification, competitors had to use one method to release the ball, launch against various directions and angles and avoid breaking the balls.

Chou began competing in the annual challenges in sixth grade when he was invited to be part of a team by his friend whose dad worked for JPL. Ho joined Chou’s team in seventh grade.

The pair started working on their device in mid-August when the prompt was released by JPL. They worked in Ho’s garage using materials they had on hand, coming up with different plans to best fulfill the requirements. They decided on a catapult as the best choice to send into competition after their original model failed.

“It wasn’t accurate enough because originally we used a leaf blower to power it. We used a surgical tube instead,” Ho said. “There was a rod attached to it with a cup in the front where the wiffle ball goes, so when you release it the energy travels and the ball will keep traveling as the device stops.”

The team placed first at the Orange County Regional Competition held at Chapman University on Nov. 18.

Since they were one of the top five teams at the regional level, they automatically moved on to the final competition at JPL in Pasadena on Dec. 1. There they competed against 19 other teams and got eight balls in 29 seconds, taking first overall.

At the competition, there were also other awards such as heaviest, lightest and most artistic. Juniors Kenneth Chew, Ashley Pang and Parker Chu and senior Crystal Wai also competed in the event as their own team. They made it to the final round but did not place.