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Aiden Grover

8th Grade, Riverside STEM Academy
Riverside, CA

Aiden designed a quieter ball for pickleball after he learned many people dislike the sport because it’s so loud.

Decreasing Pickleball Noise

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Project Background

One day, Aiden read an article explaining that many people hate pickleball because the game is so loud. “As a pickleball player, I was shocked,” he says. Similar to tennis, players use paddles to whack a ball back and forth over a net. From 100 feet away, about 30 meters, a game’s average noise level is 70 decibels, which is just below a vacuum cleaner. The sounds can annoy nearby communities and distract players, and slightly louder noises can harm hearing over time. “I decided that I would try to do something to make the game quieter, as pickleball is a really fun game to play,” Aiden says, so he designed a quieter ball.

Tactics and Results

Pickleballs are hollow, plastic and filled with holes. Aiden tried plugging the holes with different items to prevent sound from escaping. He also added sound-dampening materials to the outside of some balls and put flexible but rigid materials onto others. He ended up making 19 different prototypes to compare to a standard ball. He then dropped each ball three times from a height of 6.5 feet, or 2 meters. During each trial, Aiden logged how high the ball bounced and the sound from 8 inches, or 20 centimeters, away. He also took audio recordings so he could find each ball’s main sound frequency. The greater the frequency, the higher the pitch to human ears. “Instead of focusing on just one goal, I decided to find the design that was most well rounded,” Aiden says. He found the best solution to be adding flexible but rigid material to the ball’s exterior. That’s because the hard surfaces on the ball and paddle make a colossal sound when they collide. In the end, Aiden’s prototype with soft rubber dots added to its surface worked best. “It bounced just as high as the control did, but it was only 62% as loud,” he says.

2023 Thermo Fisher JIC Finalist Aiden Grover

Beyond the Project

Aiden’s current prototype has flexible but rigid rubber applied in patches. Dipping the ball in this material would allow more uniform coverage and lead to a more consistent bounce, he says. That process would also be easier for manufacturers to scale up, he adds.

Other interests

Besides pickleball, Aiden enjoys playing bassoon in his school band. “I chose it because of the sound it makes and the odd shape of the instrument, as it is long and thin,” he says. He also has a business making custom building block sets, and would eventually like to work at LEGO as a mechanical engineer.

2023 Thermo Fisher JIC Finalist Aiden Grover